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Asteroid sample arrives on Earth

By Adam Riley Sep 25, 2023 | 8:05 AM

A technician prepares the OLA sensor head for testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Baltimore, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Debora McCallum) - Courtesy the Canadian Space Agency

A mission to an asteroid launched seven years ago has returned with its precious cargo.

In 2016 the OSIRIS-REx was launched as part of a mission to collect a sample from the Asteroid Bennu.

The spacecraft arrived on the asteroid in December of 2018, collected the sample in 2020, began the return home in 2021, and completed its journey Sunday, touching down in the Utah desert.

Canada played a crucial role in the mission, contributing a special laser altimeter which was used to scan the asteroid and select the best sample collection site.

This marks the largest sample return mission from outside of the orbit of the moon according to Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne.

“With OSIRIS-REx, Canada is paving the way for decades of exciting space research and scientific discovery for generations to come while setting itself apart as a global leader, through the efforts of our world-renowned scientists and researchers.”

Scientists are hopeful the sample could hold answers to some of humanity’s questions about the solar systems history and the origins of water and life on Earth.

The full sample is being taken to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it will be curated and distributed to scientists, with some of the space rock bound for the Canadian Space Agency for study next year, making Canada the fifth country in the world to receive and curate a sample collected in space.