CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA revealed its findings Wednesday first asteroid samples delivered last month by a space probe – the most ever to return to Earth.
The unveiling at the Johnson Space Center in Houston was attended by scientists and executives from space agencies.
The ancient black dust and chunks come from the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu, nearly 60 million miles away. NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft collected the samples three years ago and dropped it off sealed in a capsule during a flyby of Earth last month.
Scientists expected at least a cup full of rocks, far more than what was expected Japan brought back two missions two years ago. They are still not sure about the exact amount. That’s because the main sample chamber hasn’t been opened yet, officials said.
“It was slow and meticulous,” said the mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.
According to Lauretta, black dust and particles were scattered around the outer edge of the chamber.
“This is already a scientific treasure,” he said.
In addition to carbon, the asteroid debris contains water in the form of water-bearing clay minerals, said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
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