NASA uncovered black dust and debris on the avionics deck of the canister holding the first deep-space asteroid sample captured in U.S. history.
The discovery was made after the aluminum lid was taken off the OSIRIS-REx mission’s canister, marking the end of its seven-year-long journey.
“The dust is presumed to be a part of the sample,” a spokesperson for NASA’s Johnson Space Center told Fox News. They added that a quick-look analysis is planned on the find. “This was expected and was always a part of the curation procedures.”
Launched in September 2016, OSIRIS-REx observed and collected samples from Bennu, a carbon-rich asteroid, using a long stick vacuum. Some of the sample’s contents were unfortunately lost due to a jammed door post-collection. The spacecraft began its Earthward journey on May 10, 2021.
NASA Discovers More Than Just Rocks in Asteroid Sample Capsule
The capsule journeyed about 4 billion miles in total during its $1 billion mission.
“We think objects like Bennu may have made Earth habitable,” Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for Osiris-REx, shared with The Wall Street Journal. “They might have delivered the ocean water, the molecules that are in our atmosphere, and maybe even the organic materials that triggered the origin of life on our planet.”
Bennu is labeled the most “potentially hazardous” asteroid in the solar system, with a less than 0.05% chance of impacting Earth in the late 2100s, as per Lauretta.
The sample, holding roughly a cup of rubble, made its landing in the Utah desert and was subsequently delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Monday.
Japan stands as the only other nation to have retrieved asteroid samples.
Curation experts are set to meticulously disassemble the Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) to access the sample inside at the specially designed laboratory for the OSIRIS-REx mission, as stated by NASA.
“When the TAGSAM is separated from the canister, it will be inserted in a sealed transfer container to preserve a nitrogen environment for up to about two hours,” NASA noted.
This transfer canister will provide a buffer for the TAGSAM to be placed into a “glovebox,” enabling scientists and engineers to interact with the equipment and sample without any contamination.
“There is a very high level of focus from the team — the sample will be revealed with an amazing amount of precision to accommodate delicate hardware removal so as not to come into contact with the sample inside,” NASA mentioned.
The unveiling of the sample is scheduled for a livestream on NASA’s website on Oct. 11 at 11 a.m. ET.
With information from Fox News