NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft crushed rocks and sent rubble flying as it briefly touched an asteroid, a strong indication that samples were collected for return to Earth, officials said Wednesday.
Scientists won’t know until next week how much was gathered at asteroid Bennu — they want at least a handful of the cosmic rubble. But close-up pictures and video of Tuesday’s touch-and-go operation raised hopes that goal was achieved.
“We really did kind of make a mess on the surface of this asteroid, but it’s a good mess, the kind of mess we were hoping for,” said lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona at Tucson.
It was the first asteroid-sampling effort by the U.S., coming four years after the spacecraft rocketed from Cape Canaveral and two years after it reached Bennu. Japan has taken asteroid samples twice.
The carbon-rich Bennu is a time capsule believed to contain the original building blocks of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago and, as such, can help scientists better understand the origins of Earth and life as we know it.
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