OSIRIS-REx Mission Capsule Safely Touches Down

The sample return capsule from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is seen shortly after touching down in the desert, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, at the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range. The sample was collected from the asteroid Bennu in October 2020 by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber.

Seven years after the OSIRIS-REx Mission launched to Asteroid Bennu one of the key goals has been achieved, that of returning a sample safely back to Earth.

At 10:52 a.m. ET Sunday, the capsule containing the sample from Bennu touched down in the Utah Test and Training Range, southwest of Salt Lake City.

The sample returned is estimated at 8.8 ounces, or 250 gram. Canada will receive 4% of the sample, around 10 grams.

Researchers are elated that will now get their chance to analyze the sample.

In a NASA press release Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson said “Today marks an extraordinary milestone not just for the OSIRIS-REx team but for science as a whole. Successfully delivering samples from Bennu to Earth is a triumph of collaborative ingenuity and a testament to what we can accomplish when we unite with a common purpose. But let’s not forget – while this may feel like the end of an incredible chapter, it’s truly just the beginning of another. We now have the unprecedented opportunity to analyze these samples and delve deeper into the secrets of our solar system.”

As we had recently reported, Canada has been preparing for the return of a sample from Bennu for some time.

The sample will be sent to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Canada’s portion of the sample will be readied and sent to Canada.

Once the Canadian sample is ready, it will be brought to Canada’s own curation facility which will be the first of its kind in the country. The facility will allow for the study of the sample using nitrogen atmosphere, which is less corrosive than the typical oxygen and nitrogen mix found in the births atmosphere. The CSA (Canadian Space Agency) has established cleaning procedures for all of the tools that will be used to analyze the sample, and monitoring protocols will also be put in place to ensure a lack of contamination and excellent archival knowledge procedures. Loans will be made to the scientific community, with a portion of the sample as well.

The sample analysis science team includes Dr. Dominique Weis, University of British Columbia, Dr. Edward Cloutis, University of Winnipeg, Dr. Alan Hildebrand, University of Calgary and Dr. Michael Daly, York University. Also working on the team and providing curatorial and scientific expertise is Dr. Kim Tait, Royal Ontario Museum/University of Toronto.

The CSA stated in a press release that the Canadian experts “will participate in the selection of the material that will make up the Canadian sample, set to arrive at the John H. Chapman Space Centre (CSA headquarters), no earlier than 2024. Canada will become the fifth country in the world to get and curate a sample collected in space.”

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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