Touch down - Asteroid Bennu sample successfully lands on Earth
Canada will receive a portion of the asteroid material
September 24, 2023 – Longueuil, Quebec
This morning at 10:52 a.m. ET, an asteroid sample collected as part of NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission landed in the Utah desert. In return for the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) contribution to this mission, a portion of the asteroid material will go to Canada. It will be studied by generations of Canadian and international scientists.
The sample retrieved on asteroid Bennu could hold the answer to some of the most fundamental questions about the solar system's history and the origins of water and life on Earth. The Canadian OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) instrument played a key role in the mission. It was used to scan and measure the shape of the entire surface of the asteroid and to help select the best site to collect the specimen.
The sample will be sent to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it will be curated and distributed to scientists and international collaborators. CSA experts and Canadians scientists 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.
"Thanks to a sought-after expertise in optics, Canada played a major role in the largest sample return mission from outside the orbit of the Moon. With OSIRIS-REx, Canada is paving the way for decades of exciting space research and scientific discovery for generations to come while setting itself apart as a global leader, through the efforts of our world-renowned scientists and researchers."
- The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Timeline of the OSIRIS-REx mission
- Launch: September 8, 2016
- Asteroid Arrival: December 3, 2018
- Sample Collection: October 20, 2020
- Asteroid Departure Maneuver: May 10, 2021
- Sample Return Capsule in the Utah desert: September 24, 2023
Building on the legacy of missions like the Phoenix Mars Lander, OLA was built by MDA, with significant contributions from subcontractor Optech. OLA is the most sophisticated scanning lidar ever to fly to an asteroid, capable of centimetre-scale precision from up to 7 kilometres away.
The CSA is funding Canadian researchers:
- Curatorial and scientific expertise: Dr. Kim Tait, Royal Ontario Museum/University of Toronto
- Sample analysis – members of the Science Team:
- Dr. Dominique Weis, University of British Columbia
- Dr. Edward Cloutis, University of Winnipeg
- Dr. Alan Hildebrand, University of Calgary
- Dr. Michael Daly, York University
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