Water discovered in first samples from asteroid Bennu – Noovo Info

Seven years after the launch of the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft, in which Canada is involved, NASA presented the samples from Bennu, an asteroid about 4.6 billion years old that was returned to Earth two weeks ago.

Initial analyzes show that these samples contain water and carbon, but could also contain organic compounds such as sugar or amino acids. These basic units of proteins and DNA are essential to all life on Earth.

“Who are we? Where do we come from? What place do we have in this immensity we call the universe?” “This mission will allow our scientists to study the formation of our planet over generations,” NASA Chief Administrator Bill Nelson said during a press conference on Wednesday in Houston.

To understand who we are, we must study the composition of the building blocks of life, he summarized.

The Canadian contribution

In the coming weeks, as the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) completes construction of a new clean room at its headquarters in Longueuil, parts of Bennu will be transported into the country.

ASC geologist Caroline-Emmanuelle Morisset will be responsible for preserving these samples.

She told The Canadian Press that Bennu is particularly interesting because it has remained virtually unchanged since the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

“The samples are stored in closed containers under nitrogen to protect them from interactions with the atmosphere,” explains the scientist.

“So they are not contaminated, unlike meteorites, which could be similar to Bennu but passed through the atmosphere and therefore could have been contaminated by Earth.”

It is the purity of this asteroid’s sample that makes this mission a turning point in space exploration.

Canada receives 4% of the sample, which Caroline-Emmanuelle Morisset estimates is between 4 and 10 grams.

The Canadian scientific community will have access to asteroid pieces in the space agency’s laboratories as Canada invested $61 million in the mission.

A laser mapping system developed by the CSA was integrated into the spacecraft of the OSIRIS-Rex mission.

The Canadian laser altimeter, called OLA (OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter), made it possible to create three-dimensional maps of Bennu to help the mission team select a location to collect a sample.