OSIRIS-REx seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: where did we come from? What is our destiny? We are going to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid that records the earliest history of our Solar System. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans. Bennu is also one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids. It has a relatively high probability of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century.
Astrobiologists like Jason Dworkin are keenly interested in the origins of life on Earth, but the evidence that they seek was erased long ago by Earth’s geology and chemistry. Fortunately, asteroids like Bennu preserve the solar system’s earliest ingredients, including the carbon-based building blocks of life. That’s why NASA is sending a spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx to explore asteroid Bennu and bring a sample back to Earth. The material collected by OSIRIS-REx will provide a wealth of data for future generations of astrobiologists, shedding light on one of Earth’s biggest mysteries.
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