NASA sent OSIRIS-REx asteroid-sampling mission to Asteroid Bennu with the goal to take a sample of the space rock’s soil and bring it back home for further analysis. The scientists hope that, by studying Bennu, a 487-meter wide asteroid, they will learn more about the Solar System early history and planetary formation processes. They didn’t expect to find water traces in the boulders on the space rock’s surface.
The two asteroid-sampling mission’s spectrometers, the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) and the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES), indicated to the existence of molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms linked together, referred to as “hydroxyl.”
“The team suspects that these hydroxyls exist throughout the asteroid in clay minerals containing water, which means that at some point, Bennu’s rocky material interacted with the water. While Bennu itself is too small to have housed liquid water, the finding does indicate that at some point there was liquid water in the object from which Bennu broke off, a much larger asteroid,” said Erin Morton and Daniel Stolte from the University of Arizona.
NASA OSIRIS-REx Mission Discovered Water On Asteroid Bennu
“The presence of hydrated minerals in the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant of the early formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of volatile and primitive organic compounds. When the Earth mission returns samples of this material in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system,” said Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“Our initial data show that the team chose the correct asteroid as the target of the OSIRIS-REx mission. We haven’t discovered any insurmountable problems in Bennu so far. The spacecraft is in good condition, and the scientific instruments are performing better than necessary. It’s time for our adventure to begin,” added Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson.