On Tuesday, a NASA spacecraft touched down on the rough surface of the asteroid Penn and caught a sample of the solar system’s pre-natal rocks to bring home.
This is a priority for the United States – only Japan has previously received asteroid models.
The “Touch-and-Go” maneuver is managed by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, where an announcer said at 6.12pm (22:12 GMT) on Tuesday: “Touchdown announced. The model is active, ”and the scientists erupted in celebration.
Seconds later, Esthell Church, the Lockheed mission operator, confirmed that the spacecraft had moved away from the cliff after contact, saying, “Sample collection is complete, back burning is activated.”
The historic mission lasted 12 years and a critical 16-second period in production, where the minivan-sized Osiris-Rex spacecraft stretched its 11-foot (3.35 m) robotic arm toward a flat gravel near Penn’s North Pole and snatched a sample of rocks – NASA’s first asteroid rock .
This study will send back images of the sample collection throughout Wednesday and week, so scientists can explore how much material has been recovered and decide whether to try another collection for the study.
Scientists believe that at least 2 ounces (60 g) and the pound should be close to 4 pounds (2 kg) of black, crumbling, carbon-rich material – the building blocks of the solar system. The asteroid is located 200 million miles (321.9 million km) from Earth.
Thomas Surbuchen, NASA’s chief missionary, compared Pennu to the Rosetta Stone: “Something is out there and tells the history of our entire planet, the solar system, over the last billion years.”
If a successful collection is confirmed, the spacecraft will arrive in 2023 and begin its journey to Earth.
Dante Loretta, OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said in a direct feed from NASA from the Lockheed work support building. “We have overcome the amazing challenges that this asteroid has thrown at us, and the spacecraft seems to be running flawlessly.”
The robotic arm collection device, designed like an enlarged shower head, is designed to release compressed gas to kick debris.
The spacecraft was launched in 2016 from the Kennedy Space Center for a voyage to Penn. It has been in orbit around the asteroid for almost two years preparing for the Touch and Go maneuver.
Penn was chosen as a target for more than 4.5 billion years because scientists believe it was a small area that was once the largest meteorite in the universe, breaking up when it collided between two meteorites early in solar history. Organization.
“Asteroids are like time capsules floating in space that can provide fossil recordings of the birth of our solar system,” NASA’s Director of Planetary Science, Lori Clas, told Al Jazeera. “They can provide valuable information about how planets like ours appeared.”
Thanks to data collected from orbit, the NASA team has determined two key discoveries: firstly, 5 to 10 percent of the mass of the pen is water, and secondly, its surface is scattered by carbon-rich molecules. Nuclear-level analysis of samples from the pen will help scientists better understand what role asteroids played in bringing water to Earth and sowing it with the prebiotic materials that provided the building blocks for life.
Studying that material will help scientists find out if it exists anywhere else in the solar system.
“If this kind of chemistry was happening in the early solar system, it could have happened in other solar systems as well,” Loretta, OSIRIS-Rex’s primary investigator, told Al Jazeera in an interview ahead of Tuesday’s progress. “It helps us to estimate the origin of life across the galaxy and, ultimately, across the universe.”
Japan expects samples from its second asteroid mission – in milligram ME – to land in the Australian desert in December.