NASA’s OSIRIS-REx delivered its precious cargo to Earth on September 24th, 2023. The sample from asteroid Bennu is contained inside the spacecraft’s sampling head, and it’s in safe hands at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Two stubborn fasteners delayed the opening of the sampling head, but they’ve been removed, and now we can see inside.
What looks like unremarkable dirt is primordial asteroidal material that’s billions of years old, a natural treasure trove that eager scientists can’t wait to begin studying.
In the early days of spaceflight, just getting a satellite into Earth’s orbit was an accomplishment. In our era, landing rovers on other planets and bringing samples home from asteroids is the cutting edge. But the next frontier is rapidly approaching, when astronauts will stay for long periods of time on the Moon and hopefully Mars.
But before we can send people to those dangerous environments, the Artemis partner space agencies have to know how to keep them safe. An important part of that is simulating the conditions on the Moon and Mars.