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NASA releases samples from the asteroid that reveal the presence of water and carbon

NASA releases samples from the asteroid that reveal the presence of water and carbon

Source: Robert Markowitz/NASA

NASA announced that it has finally been able to release precious material obtained from an asteroid that was trapped by two stubborn stabilizers. The space agency has already collected about 70 grams of rocks and dust from the OSIRIS-Rex mission. This was the first time that NASA was able to collect a sample from a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu. However, in October, NASA revealed that some of the material was still out of reach, trapped inside an instrument called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM.

Challenges in sample collection

The head of the sample collection device, or TAGSAM, is closed by 35 clips. However, opening two of them proved extremely difficult. NASA had to use previously approved materials and instruments to reduce the risk of damaging or contaminating samples. To address this problem, NASA created two instruments made of surgical steel, which is considered the hardest material approved for use in conservation gloves.

Water discovery in Benue

Analysis of materials from Bennu, collected by NASA researchers last fall, revealed that samples taken from the asteroid contain abundant water in the form of hydrated clay minerals, in addition to carbon. Scientists believe that the presence of water on asteroids reinforces the current theory about how water reached Earth billions of years ago.

“Today, Earth is a habitable world, with oceans, lakes, rivers and rain. This is due to the fact that these clay minerals landed on Earth 4 to 4.5 years ago,” Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission, said in October. billion years, making our world habitable. “So we're looking at the way water was incorporated into solid matter.”

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Some of Bennu's previously collected samples have been hermetically sealed in storage containers for future studies.