Streaming issues? Report here
Sara-Jayne King Sara-Jayne King
Weekend Breakfast with Sara-Jayne King
06:00 - 10:00
volume_up
volume_mute

Up Next: Just the Hits with Abongile Nzelenzele
See full line-up
Weekend Breakfast with Sara-Jayne King
06:00 - 10:00
Home
arrow_forward
World

[WATCH] Collecting samples from ancient asteroid Bennu - and why this matters

23 October 2020 9:46 AM
Tags:
NASA
life
Asteroid Bennu
Osiris-Rex

Instrumentation Scientist and Astronomer Dr Nicolas Erasmus at the SA Astronomical Observatory explains the significance of this event.

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:




23 October 2020 9:46 AM
Tags:
NASA
life
Asteroid Bennu
Osiris-Rex

More from World

Animals and pets in the UK recognised as sentient beings in 'extraordinary' bill

14 May 2021 11:54 AM

The UK government has introduced a new bill to formally recognise animals as sentient beings, ushering in a ban on most live animal exports.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

'Waking up earlier can help overweight people avoid diabetes and heart disease'

14 May 2021 11:48 AM

"Night owls are six times more likely to develop type two diabetes than early birds," says Adam Gilchrist.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Gqeberha-born billionaire commits R3bn to producing vaccines in SA

13 May 2021 8:04 PM

Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong is currently busy with clinical trials for the Covid-19 vaccine he's developed, says Prof. Shabir Madhi.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Israel violence escalating toward all-out war - UN

13 May 2021 10:27 AM

"Israel argues Hamas puts fighters into tower blocks," says Adam Gilchrist. "They feel justified in bombing the hell out of them."

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Share swop deal for JSE giant Naspers and subsidiary Prosus 'will affect us all'

12 May 2021 7:55 PM

Prosus announces voluntary exchange offer to acquire 45% of Naspers shares. Bruce Whitfield interviews Group CFO Basil Sgourdos.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Protesters in Cape Town call on SA govt to stand with Palestine

12 May 2021 4:36 PM

A group of demonstrators marched to Parliament and called on the SA government to do more to show support for the people of Palestine.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

100 Republicans threaten to split party over Trump

12 May 2021 10:39 AM

The Republican Party may be split into "rational Republicans" and "Trump Republicans," says Barbara Friedman.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Covid-19 in India: 'Dozens and dozens' of bodies found floating down Ganges

12 May 2021 9:33 AM

Struggling with sheer numbers, it seems people are immersing bodies in the Ganges before cremation, says Adam Gilchrist.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Microchip shortage: From phones to cars, everything's about to cost more

11 May 2021 8:28 PM

The Money Show's Bruce Whitfield interviews media analyst Arthur Goldstuck (MD, World Wide Worx).

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

'Israeli settlers want to take over Palestinian homes in Jerusalem'

11 May 2021 9:26 AM

Na'eem Jennah, Executive Director at the Afro-Middle East Centre explains the roots of clashes in East Jerusalem.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward