Sept. 21, 2023

Media Advisory: NASA to unveil sample of asteroid Bennu and discuss early analysis

  • What: NASA to host a news conference to reveal and discuss the first asteroid sample collected in space and brought to Earth by the United States.
  • When: Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at 8 a.m. MST, 10 a.m. CDT
  • Where: NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, 2101 E. NASA Pkwy., Houston, TX 77058, and on NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency's website.
  • RSVP:
    • This event has limited availability due to space in the facility. U.S. and international media interested in attending must request participation in advance.
    • The deadline for U.S. media to RSVP is 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, and the deadline is 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, for international media.
    • Credential media can request accreditation by contacting the NASA Johnson newsroom at: 281-483-5111 or Selected participants will receive additional information after they register. NASA's media accreditation policy is online.

TUCSON, Ariz. — On Wednesday, Oct. 11, NASA will host a news conference to unveil the asteroid material collected by the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission. During the event, the science team will discuss an initial analysis of the sample, which is expected to land on Sunday, Sept. 24, in the Utah desert.

After the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft enters Earth's atmosphere and safely lands, NASA experts will collect the rocks and dust retrieved from the asteroid Bennu inside the capsule and bring the sample to NASA Johnson for examination in a pristine curation facility.

News conference participants include:

  • Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and Regents Professor of Planetary Sciences at the UArizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson
  • Francis McCubbin, OSIRIS-REx deputy curation lead, NASA Johnson
  • Daniel Glavin, OSIRIS-REx sample analysis lead, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Media on-site will have the opportunity to interact with subject matter experts and see the sample live (via video feed) from the curation laboratory.

Touchdown at the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range near Dugway, Utah, on Sept. 24, will mark the end of a seven-year journey to explore the asteroid Bennu, collect a sample from its surface and deliver it to Earth.

The next phase of the mission, which includes both curation and research activities, will kick off after the OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule arrives at Johnson on Monday, Sept. 25. The curation team will carefully disassemble the sample container to extract the bulk of the sample, and researchers will perform a first-look analysis of the sample, the results of which will be discussed for the first time Oct. 11.

NASA built a new OSIRIS-REx Sample Curation Laboratory where curators from the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science team will manage distribution of samples to scientists around the world over the coming years, including those from UArizona. The UArizona-led science team will receive 25% of the sample, some of which will be studied in the university's Kuiper-Arizona Laboratory for Astromaterials Analysis. A portion of the sample will also be reserved for research decades from now, utilizing technologies that will improve over the years.

Scientists seek to learn more about how our planet and solar system formed, as well as the origin of organics that may have led to life on Earth. The sample can also reveal more about the characteristics of potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids like Bennu, which can inform planetary defense strategies.

Johnson houses the world's largest collection of astromaterials from the solar system under one roof, including samples from asteroids, comets, Mars, the moon, sun and dust from other stars. Scientists use world-class laboratories to perform research on planetary materials and the space environment to investigate the origin and evolution of our solar system and beyond.

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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 2021 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $824 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.