New space rocks just dropped

Unlike many of us coming home from holiday, NASA remembered to bring back souvenirs from its latest trip.

Driving the news: The largest asteroid sample ever brought back to Earth touched down Sunday morning when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx capsule returned from a 7-year trip—a mission Canada played a crucial role in. 

  • Canada provided the instrument (a literal space laser) that scanned and measured the asteroid to help determine where to land OSIRIS-REx and the best spots to gather samples.

  • For its contribution, Canada will be one of the few countries to get access to part of the sample, which is about the size of a hamster.

Why it matters: The successful mission means scientists can study the material the way it existed in the solar system billions of years ago, which could offer some answers as to how life first began on Earth. 

  • The organics of the sample could support the theory that small worlds of swirling gas and dust like Bennu gave Earth the ingredients it needed to create life. 

What’s next: There’s a very small chance that Bennu will eventually hit Earth, according to NASA, giving scientists more reason to study it so they can figure out how to make sure that doesn’t happen.—LA