[WATCH] Collecting samples from ancient asteroid Bennu - and why this matters
This is the OSIRIS-REx mission’s Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event from the ancient asteroid, Bennu.
The images show a NASA spacecraft approaching and touching down on Asteroid Bennu’s surface, over 321 million km away from Earth.
America's Osiris-Rex spacecraft has successfully made contact with a 500metre asteroid with its main mission being to collect around 60grams from the surface so that the composition can be analysed.
John Maytham speaks to Dr Nicolas Erasmus, Instrumentation Scientist and Astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory to understand the significance of this event.
The size of the asteroid and the speed at which it is travelling, its distance from Earth, all make this mission to land and take samples even more impressive.
what makes it a bit easier is that Bennu is a near-Earth asteroid...it is not always close to us but it is in our orbital neighbourhood.Dr Nicolas Erasmus, Instrumentation Scientist and Astronomer - South African Astronomical Observatory
Why is a sample from Benni significant?
Erasmus explains that Bennu is part of a group of carbonaceous asteroids.
The rock and dust of Bennu contain carbon-rich organic compounds and these compounds are really what the scientists are after. And the reason for that is that these compounds are thought to be the building blocks...they can jumpstart microbial life.Dr Nicolas Erasmus, Instrumentation Scientist and Astronomer - South African Astronomical Observatory
At least, that was with the conditions believed to have existed 2 billion years ago on Earth, he elaborates.
It is a combination of the correct molecules and the right environment that is needed to kickstart life, he notes
Spectrometers from Earth have established that these molecules exist on Bennu, but you never really know for sure until you get the sample - and that's exactly why they have done this mission.Dr Nicolas Erasmus, Instrumentation Scientist and Astronomer - South African Astronomical Observatory
It will only land back on Earth in 2023.
What they are basically trying to figure out is what type of molecules were floating around in the solar system during the time when we think life originated.Dr Nicolas Erasmus, Instrumentation Scientist and Astronomer - South African Astronomical Observatory
Bennu is a pristine example and so is an ideal sample to study.
Listen to the interview below:
Watch sample connection on Asteroid Bennu below:
Watch the tour of Asteroid Bennu below:
Professor Keertan Dheda debunks myths spread about the procedure which is an appropriate treatment for only a small number of patients.Read More
James Howell dumped a hard drive containing his then worthless bitcoin fortune in 2013 and now it's worth about £210m.Read More
Germany has squandered its early success in restricting Covid-19, laments Deutsche Welle Correspondent Chelsey Dulaney.Read More
Online searches for virtual team-building are up 1540% over the past 6 months as companies find staff at home feel disconnected.Read More
The execution makes Lisa Montgomery the first female federal inmate to be put to death by the US government in 67 years.Read More
With steps afoot to remove/impeach Donald Trump ahead of Biden's inauguration, he's chosen to visit 'his' wall on Mexico border.Read More
Big corporates have been investing in Bitcoin; what does that mean for the future? Crypto expert Paul Mitchell weighs in.Read More
Some of the Daily Show hosts new neighbours will include Elon Musk, Jennifer Aniston, and music stars Beyonce and Jay-Z.Read More
Hollywood actor, former Californian governor, and a Republican compares the storing of the US Capitol to the Nazi's in Germany.Read More