Who doesn’t love showing off their collection of cool rocks? NASA was finally able to get into the asteroid Bennu sample container last week after struggling with it for a couple of months, and now, it’s sharing a look at what’s inside. The space agency published a high-resolution image of the newly opened Touch-and-Go-Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) on Friday, revealing all the dust and rocks OSIRIS-REx scraped off the asteroid’s surface.
The image is massive, so you can zoom in to see even the finer details of the sample. Check out the full-sized version on NASA’s website. There’s an abundance of material for scientists to work with, and as OSIRIS-REx team member Lindsay Keller said back in September, they plan to make the most of microanalytical techniques to “really tear it apart, almost down to the atomic scale.” Asteroid Bennu, estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old, may hold clues into the formation of our solar system and how the building blocks of life first came to Earth.
Scientists have already discovered signs of carbon and water in the excess material they found on the outside of the TAGSAM. While they’d hoped to get at least 2.1 ounces (60 grams) of regolith from the asteroid, OSIRIS-REx was able to grab much more. The team obtained 2.48 ounces (70.3 grams) just from the “bonus” material accumulated on the sample hardware. NASA plans to spend the next two years analyzing portions of the sample, but the majority of it will be preserved for future studies and to be shared with other scientists.