How Bay Area's NASA Ames Research Center helped bring 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid sample to Earth

Dustin Dorsey Image
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Here's how Bay Area helped bring 1st asteroid sample to Earth
Technology from Mountain View's NASA Ames Research Center helped bring the first ever asteroid sample to Earth.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- More than seven years of research worth more than a billion dollars came to an exciting conclusion Sunday when Osiris-Rex safely dropped off NASA's first asteroid sample back on Earth.

The capsule traveled billions of miles to retrieve samples from the asteroid Bennu, in hopes to understand the origins of life.

"This is the beginning of that - space being a frontier that we are starting to uncover the mysteries and we may learn so much," NASA Ames Research Center Entry Systems Technology Lead Raj Venkatapathy said.

It was all smiles at Lockheed Martin Mission control in Colorado after Osiris-Rex successfully returned with the 4.5 billion year old asteroid sample.

VIDEO: NASA satellite showing moments leading to asteroid sample touching down on Earth

Video shows reaction from NASA as first asteroid samples fetched from deep space parachuted into the Utah desert Sunday to cap a seven-year journey.

Hundreds of miles away at the landing site in Utah, the nine ounce sample was taken for further testing.

"It was a once in a lifetime kind of thing for me personally," Venkatapathy said.

Venkatapathy was there for the landing.

His team's heat shield technology of the capsule helped lead to the safe return of the asteroid sample.

"It was one of those things where you know you're bringing back something that was created at the time when the solar system was created," Venkatapathy said.

RELATED: NASA's 1st asteroid samples land on Earth after release from spacecraft

NASA's first asteroid samples fetched from deep space parachuted into the Utah desert Sunday to cap a seven-year journey.

For that reason, the sample is incredibly important.

It allow scientists to understand more about the asteroid that has a potential for impact with Earth in 159 years.

But, the sample will be shared across the world in order to learn about our creation.

"So this is what we think contributed to the creation of Earth," Venkatapathy said. "What other chemicals are there with this sample that we have? So, they may tell us a lot more about how we all began."

Osiris-Rex will remain space for its next asteroid mission and it's the start of more exploration to come.

"We're going to go to Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and to Titan," Venkatapathy said. "That mission is in preparation. So, these places and each one of these missions adds us so much so that we do those missions."

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