Importance of asteroid sample return

Nature Geoscience, Volume 16, page 833
Editorial. Published: 06 October 2023


“On 24 September, OSIRIS-REx landed in the Utah desert with a cache of approximately two hundred grams of rock from the asteroid 101955 Bennu. The NASA mission follows on the heels of the recent Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa-2 that returned material from asteroid 162173 Ryugu in December 2020. Both missions aim to further our understanding of processes that controlled the early development of the Solar System and the compositions of its most primitive materials, preserved as asteroids. Not only will this help reveal how the Earth first grew, it may even help us narrow in on the origins of fundamental building blocks for life itself. However, sample return missions have a high price tag, with OSIRIS-REx costing about one billion US dollars. In contrast, meteorites are regularly delivered to us through the Earth’s atmosphere for free. But returning fresh materials from specially chosen asteroids can yield insights that researchers would struggle to glean from meteorites alone.”