Dr. King, a UK scientist, was among the privileged few to set their eyes on and study the rocky samples recently returned from asteroid Bennu by a NASA mission. These extraterrestrial materials, brought back to Earth just 17 days ago, are currently undergoing examination in a specialized laboratory in Texas.
“We’ve confirmed we went to the right asteroid,” Dr. King confirmed to BBC News.
The initial three-day analysis by Dr. King, a Natural History Museum (NHM) expert, and five other scientists on the “Quick Look” team revealed that the black, otherworldly powder is rich in carbon and water-laden minerals. This discovery holds great significance, as it supports a theory that asteroids similar to Bennu, which are carbon-rich and water-rich, might have played a role in delivering essential components to the early Earth system about 4.5 billion years ago. This process could have contributed to the formation of Earth’s oceans and some of the compounds necessary for the emergence of life.
The samples from Bennu will be instrumental in further testing and exploring these theories.
“We’re trying to find out who we are, what we are, where we came from. What is our place in this vastness called the Universe?” emphasized Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson during a briefing held at the Johnson Space Center, where the dedicated lab is located.