Major asteroid sample brought to Earth in NASA first

Scientists have high hopes for the sample, saying it will provide a better understanding of the formation of our solar system and how Earth became habitable.

When they learned that the capsule's main parachute had deployed, "I literally broke into tears," the Osiris-Rex mission's principal investigator Dante Lauretta told a press conference.

"That was the moment I knew we made it home... For me the real science is just beginning."

The 3.86-billion-mile (6.21-billion-kilometer) journey marked the United States' first sample return mission of its kind, the US space agency said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

NASA chief Bill Nelson hailed the mission and said the asteroid dust "will give scientists an extraordinary glimpse into the beginnings of our solar system."

The Osiris-Rex probe's final, fiery descent through Earth's atmosphere was perilous, but NASA managed to engineer a at 8:52 am local time (1452 GMT), in the military's Utah Test and Training Range.

Four years after its 2016 launch, the probe had landed on the asteroid Bennu and collected what NASA estimated is roughly nine ounces (250 grams) of dust from its rocky surface.

The Osiris-Rex mission's capsule is seen shortly after touching down in the desert on September 24, 2023 at the Utah Test and Training Range.

This graphic details key steps in the mission of NASA's Osiris-Rex probe, which returned a sizable sample of asteroid dust to Earth.

Scientists collect data shortly after the sample return capsule from NASA's Osiris-Rex mission landed in Dugway, Utah.

This image, taken by NASA's Osiris-Rex probe in December 2018, shows the asteroid Bennu.

This image from a NASA video shows the robot arm of the Osiris-Rex probe collecting samples from the asteroid Bennu in October 2020.