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Precious Dust Two Mission Converge on Asteroid Sample ReturnsFar-flung spacecraft deliver incredible views of distant worlds. But there's nothing like bringing samples back to Earth. Instruments carried by spacecraft have limitations-of power, complexity, size, and number. Their investigations leave many fundamental questions unanswered, questions that we might be able to answer if only we had samples. This summer marks the beginning of an exciting new era in sample-return missions: NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrives at asteroid Bennu, and the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrives at asteroid Ryugu. Both are primitive asteroids-dark remnants of Solar System formation that carry carbon and water-a type of asteroid that's never been visited before. After thoroughly mapping their respective asteroids for geology and mineralogy, each probe will collect surface samples and return them to Earth. I can't wait to study them in my laboratory. Cosmic-dust pioneer Kazu Tomeoka introduced me to the dream of sample-return missions 20 years ago. In those days, the only returned extraterrestrial samples were from the Moon. He said to his students, "In the near future, we will be able to collect samples from asteroids and comets. There will be no need to wait for meteorites or cosmic dust to come and fall from the sky. And some of you might be the first to look at those samples." This inspired my life's work: laboratory analysis of returned astromaterials.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Nakamura-Messenger, Keiko
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 28, 2018
Publication Date
January 1, 2018
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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