NASA capsule brings asteroid sample back to Earth. Where will it be studied? - Hindustan Times
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NASA capsule brings asteroid sample back to Earth. Where will it be studied?

Sep 24, 2023 10:03 PM IST

The samples will be flown Monday morning to a new lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA's first collection of asteroid samples, acquired from the depths of space, gently descended into the Utah desert on Sunday, marking the culmination of a seven-year mission.

A pilot boards a helicopter before flying into the Utah desert to participate in the Osiris-Rex asteroid sample return and recovery mission at Dugway, Utah, on September 24.(AFP)
A pilot boards a helicopter before flying into the Utah desert to participate in the Osiris-Rex asteroid sample return and recovery mission at Dugway, Utah, on September 24.(AFP)

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During a close pass by Earth, the Osiris-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security – Regolith Explorer) spacecraft deployed the sample capsule from a distance of 63,000 miles (approximately 100,000 kilometers). The compact capsule touched down four hours later on a secluded portion of military land, while the main spacecraft embarked on a new mission to explore another asteroid.

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Where will the sample go for research?

The sample will be flown Monday morning to a new lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The building already houses the hundreds of pounds (kilograms) of moon rocks gathered by the Apollo astronauts more than a half-century ago, reported AP.

The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, will accompany the sample to Texas. The opening of the container in Houston in the next day or two will be “the real moment of truth,” given the uncertainty over the amount inside, he said ahead of the landing.

Unveiling of sample to public on October 11

In a media advisory on September 15, NASA said the asteroid sample collected in space will be unveiled at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Wednesday, October 11.

“NASA will host a news conference at 11 a.m. EDT for the reveal, which will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website,” it added. During the event, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx science team will discuss an initial analysis of the sample.

News conference participants include:

1. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson

2. Francis McCubbin, OSIRIS-REx deputy curation lead, NASA Johnson

3. Daniel Glavin, OSIRIS-REx sample analysis lead, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt

4. Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, University of Arizona, Tucson

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