March 1, 2024

Media Advisory: Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum unveils NASA sample snagged from an asteroid in space

  • What: A media preview before a ticketed unveiling of a rare and valuable asteroid sample collected by the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission to be housed at UArizona's Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum.
  • When:  Wednesday, March 6, 4 p.m.
  • Where: Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum. 115 N. Church Ave., Suite 121, Tucson, AZ 85701
  • Who: Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and Distinguished Professor of planetary sciences. Elliott Cheu, interim senior vice president of Research, Innovation & Impact. Violetta Wolf, director of the Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum
  • RSVP: Please RSVP with name, media outlet and email address to Jason Ground at by 5 p.m. on March 4.

TUCSON, Ariz. – After seven years in space and over 4 billion miles traveled, the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission successfully collected, and last September delivered, the first U.S. sample from a near-Earth asteroid. This week a portion of that material from asteroid Bennu will join the permanent collection of the UArizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum.

In all, OSIRIS-REx brought 121.6 grams (4.29 ounces) of material to Earth on Sept. 24. Of that amount, UArizona scientists received 200 milligrams (approximately 7 thousandths of an ounce) of asteroid material for scientific study. Initial analyses indicate the samples contain plentiful amounts of water locked up in minerals like clays and are also rich in carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus.

Bigger than the sand-size science samples that are currently being analyzed at the university, the specimen that NASA allocated for public display in Tucson is a small, dark pebble with well-defined structure and texture. It will go on display next to a moon rock brought to Earth by astronauts of the Apollo program.

The Gem & Mineral Museum is one of only three locations that have received a sample from asteroid Bennu available for public viewing. The other two are at Houston's Space Center in Texas and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Following podium remarks, individual interviews and b-roll opportunities will be available. Media interested in attending this event must RSVP with name, outlet and email address to Jason Ground at by 5 p.m. on March 4.

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Media contact:
Jason Ground
University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2022 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $955 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 71 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. and Canada. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.