NASA Reveals Findings from Asteroid Bennu Sample: Water and Carbon Abundance

NASA has unveiled a sample from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, revealing significant amounts of water and carbon, supporting the theory that life on Earth might have originated from outer space.

Quick Facts

  • Sample from Asteroid Bennu: Contains abundant water and carbon, suggesting life on Earth could have been seeded from space.
  • OSIRIS-REx Mission: The spacecraft returned the sample to Earth after a seven-year roundtrip to Bennu.
  • Significance of Findings: The sample offers insights into the formation of our solar system and the potential origins of life on Earth.

The sample, which was returned to Earth by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, has been a subject of intense study by NASA. The findings were announced during a press event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The sample revealed that carbon accounted for almost 5% of its total weight, present in both organic and mineral forms. Additionally, the water was found locked inside the crystal structure of clay minerals.

These discoveries were made through a preliminary analysis that included scanning the sample with electron microscopy, X-ray computed tomography, and other advanced techniques. The results from this analysis suggest the possibility of further discoveries that could support the hypothesis that early Earth was bombarded by celestial objects like comets, asteroids, and meteorites, which could have brought with them the primordial ingredients for life.

Senior NASA scientist Daniel Glavin described the sample as “an astrobiologist’s dream,” noting that it seems to be “loaded with organics.” The early findings are a culmination of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s seven-year mission to Bennu, which involved orbiting the asteroid for nearly two years before collecting a sample of its surface material in October 2020. The sample, which consists of small charcoal-colored rocks, pebbles, and dust, is currently being examined by scientists in protective gear at a specialized lab at the space center.

For Further Reading
Asteroids, like Bennu, are considered relics of the early solar system. Their chemistry and mineralogy have remained largely unchanged since their formation, making them valuable for scientific research. Studying these celestial bodies can provide insights into the origins and evolution of rocky planets, including Earth. For more details on asteroids and their significance, refer to the Wikipedia article on asteroids.


Why is the sample from Bennu significant?
The sample from Bennu is significant because it offers insights into the early solar system and the potential origins of life on Earth. The presence of abundant water and carbon in the sample supports the theory that life on Earth might have been seeded from space.

What was the purpose of the OSIRIS-REx mission?
The OSIRIS-REx mission aimed to collect a sample from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and return it to Earth for analysis. The mission’s findings can provide valuable information about the formation of our solar system and the potential origins of life on Earth.

Original article source: DNYUZ