OSIRIS-REx Bennu Findings Good News For Oct. 20 Sample Retrieval

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Saturday, October 10, 2020 - 8:45pm
Updated: Saturday, October 10, 2020 - 8:48pm

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NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
The asteroid Bennu.

Researchers from the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission have published a series of papers in the journals Science and Science Advances describing the asteroid Bennu.

The results are both surprising and promising.

The papers describe a boulder-strewn rubble-pile, unevenly packed and maybe partly hollow.

But, more notably for the spacecraft's planned sample retrieval at Nightingale crater on Oct. 20, parts of it are covered in a young surface.

UA's Dani DellaGiustina is the lead image processing scientist and contributed to several of the publications. She says the young material is important  because organic molecules, like those that kick-started life on Earth, don't last long when exposed to space and sunlight.

"Because Nightingale looks to be fresh and pristine, we're very hopeful that the site will be abundant with these organic molecules," she said.

The samples are slated to return to Earth in September 2023.

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