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NASA’s Osiris-Rex Capsule Returns from Deep Space with Valuable Asteroid Samples

After a seven-year odyssey, NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft successfully parachuted its precious cargo of asteroid samples into the Utah desert on Sunday. The capsule, containing rubble from the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu, made an unexpected early landing after a brief flyby of Earth. The touchdown was announced with excitement by Flight Control, and the orange striped parachute surprisingly opened at a higher altitude than anticipated.

Scientists anticipate that the capsule contains at least a cup of material, which holds building blocks from the early days of our solar system. This haul represents the largest collection of samples from beyond the moon and promises crucial insights into the origins of Earth and life itself.

Osiris-Rex embarked on its $1 billion mission in 2016, reaching Bennu in 2018. Employing a unique vacuum-like instrument, the spacecraft gathered rubble from the asteroid in 2020. The voyage back covered an astonishing 4 billion miles.

NASA orchestrated an elaborate recovery operation in Utah, involving helicopters and a temporary clean room. The samples will be transported to a new lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they will join the trove of moon rocks collected by Apollo astronauts over 50 years ago.

The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta, expressed that the true moment of revelation will come when the container is opened in Houston. The uncertainty surrounding the amount of material inside makes this a highly anticipated event. Engineers estimate that the canister holds between 250 grams and 350 grams of Bennu material, well surpassing the mission’s minimum requirement.

NASA plans to showcase the samples to the public in October, marking a significant milestone in space exploration and scientific discovery.

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