TOOELE COUNTY, Utah, Sept. 24, 2023 (Gephardt Daily/UPI) — A half-pound sample of mineral dust, harvested three years ago from the Bennu asteroid by NASA‘s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, landed safely on Earth Sunday after being parachuted into Utah’s West Desert.
The capsule touched down at 8:52 a.m. MDT with the event being live-streamed worldwide on NASA’s YouTube channel.
The capsule reached temperatures up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit during reentry, according to NASA.
Members of the space agency’s recovery team sprang into action once the parachute landing, making their way to the remote site by way of helicopter.
The team could be seen examining the capsule and the surrounding area for any possible hazards and then began preparing the precious cargo for transport to the nearby Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range.
The cosmic feat marked the largest return of space material to the United States since the Apollo moon missions of the late 1960s and early ’70s.
OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Apophis Explorer, first landed on Bennu in 2020.
The spacecraft was originally launched in 2016 and has traveled about 3.86 billion miles since then, according to NASA.
OSIRIS-REx will next travel to the asteroid Apophis as part of the extended OSIRIS-APEX mission.