Early Analysis of OSIRIS-REx Samples and Early Mission Science

Lead Research Organisation: The Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Sci, Tech, Eng & Maths (STEM)


In Sept 2023 the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission will return several hundred grams of material from the asteroid Bennu, a body believed to have originated in the outer regions of the Solar System formed from materials present as its birth 4.56 billion years ago. Collected and stored under optimal conditions, and protected by the spacecraft during atmospheric entry and transferred and processed without exposure to the terrestrial environment these pristine, ancient samples will contain a record of formation conditions and processes through the earliest stages of planetary formation and the origin of water, organics and other volatiles essential to life on Earth.
The proposed research is to allow participation of the Open University Team in the early sample science campaign, where we will apply our expertise and world leading analytical capabilities to provide bulk and spatially resolved isotopic and abundance information for key elements such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. The results will provide critical information to address many of the most important questions the mission seeks to address including the nature of the samples, their origin, relationship to known (meteorite) samples, the formation and alteration history of the early asteroids, the origin of water ices and organics and the potential for such materials to have supplied key ingredients to Earth. Some of our measurements will be amongst the earliest to be made, and will provide key information to identify and characterise different types of rock that may be present in the mixed material collected. This information will help guide the selection of samples for the wider science team.
The results from these unique samples will provide an exceptional new window into the earliest stages of Solar System formation.


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