To learn more about how life formed on earth, scientists are exploring asteroids hundreds of millions of kilometers away, on the edge of our solar system.
CGTN’s Steve Mort explains.
“We’re going to be learning a lot about the building blocks for planet, and the building blocks for life,” Humberto Campins with the OSIRIS-REx Science Team said.
In February, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will begin a detailed survey of the asteroid Bennu.
The asteroid is a 4.5-billion-year-old piece of debris, rich in organic molecules.
Like all asteroids, Bennu is material left over from the creation of the planets.
Bennu is on a collision course that could pose a threat to Earth in about 160 years.
“If we have to deflect Bennu, or another asteroid like it, our study of Bennu will help considerably in that process, Campins said.
NASA will gather a sample from Bennu’s surface in 2020.
Another experiment is studying the movement of asteroid dirt.
“If you’re going to go to an asteroid, how is the surface going to react when you get there?”
This team sent a box of fake asteroid dirt into orbit, on board Virgin Galactic’s recent test flight.
To prod or poke the surface of a simulated asteroid, in these low gravitational environments, and see how it responds.
Other countries are exploring asteroids too. Japan deployed a German lander on Ryugu in October.
Meanwhile, the samples from Bennu that NASA sought in 2020 won’t arrive on earth in 2023.