A treasure trove of authentic asteroid samples will soon be delivered to Earth
However, when the mission team saw the first close-up images of Bennu’s messy, rock-strewn surface, they knew they would need more than just photos to plan the rest of the mission. The highly accurate 3D model of the asteroid created from the OLA data enabled the sample collection portion of the mission to proceed.
Watch: Canadian technology made this 3D map of Bennu possible
Samples for Canada
Due to Canada’s role in OSIRIS-REx, four percent of the total amount of material returned by the mission comes here for study. Researchers at five institutions nationwide will be part of the effort to analyze these samples – from York University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Winnipeg, the University of Calgary, and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto.
Dr. Kim Tate, Curator of Mineralogy at the ROM, has focused her studies over the past few years on carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. They are meteorites that contain the largest amount of carbon and consist of minerals formed in the presence of water. According to Dr. Tate, they are the same types of rocks that make up the asteroid Bennu.
The coal-black meteorite fragments are from the Tagish Lake meteorite, which fell on January 18, 2000, and were recovered just hours after it hit Earth. These meteorites are some of the most pristine meteorites we know of. Pieces of this meteorite are being studied at the University of Alberta and the Royal Ontario Museum. Credit: Chris Heard/University of Alberta
“What I focus on are minerals,” Dr. Tate told The Weather Network. “How minerals form, how they form together, what minerals are present. It’s all like a book. I can read the different pressures, temperatures, and elements that were present.”
Meteorites can tell us a lot about asteroids and conditions in the early solar system. However, since they are falling to Earth from space, they may not show us the full picture. Their journey through the atmosphere and exposure to Earth’s environment can change them.
This image, taken on March 7, 2019, by the PolyCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a distance of about 5 km, shows a view across the southern hemisphere of asteroid Bennu and into space. Shows the number and distribution of rocks across Bennu’s surface. The large, light-colored rock at the bottom center of the image is about 7.4 meters wide, which is roughly half the width of a basketball court. Image source: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
Samples returned using OSIRIS-REx come directly from the source; They will be protected as they descend to the Earth’s surface and kept in isolation in the laboratory until scientists can study them.
(tags for translation) NASA