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A Handful of Asteroid Could Help Decipher Our Entire Existence.

The AtlanticA NASA mission to a distant space rock could reveal clues about the early solar system. “For most of human history, the only way for scientists to get their hands on an asteroid was to wait for small chunks of one to fall through Earth’s atmosphere and smash into the ground. Incoming rocks can break apart and even vaporize during their fiery descent, so the world’s inventory of meteorites—the names given to asteroids once they’ve made it through the atmosphere—consists of only the hardiest samples…

Scientists believe that the solar system’s more ancient asteroids might have been responsible for delivering water to early Earth. Remarkably, the origin of our oceans, unmatched in the solar system, remains a mystery, one that bits of Bennu could help solve. “We are really curious to see if the water that is bound up in Bennu’s hydrated minerals has signatures that are similar to water on Earth,” Daniella DellaGiustina, an OSIRIS-REx scientist who works at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, told me. Researchers are also keen to see whether the organic materials they snag from Bennu resemble the ancient precursors that led to life on Earth…”

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