Smithsonian Unveils Rare Asteroid Rock at National Museum of Natural History
Washington, D.C. – The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. is now home to a special exhibit featuring a small rock from the asteroid Bennu. The rock, which was brought back to Earth by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, was unveiled at a ceremony attended by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and other esteemed space agency and Smithsonian officials.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully completed a remarkable 2.5-year, 1.4-billion-mile journey from asteroid Bennu, culminating in the safe landing of its sample return capsule in the Utah desert on September 24. The rock, labeled as OREX-800027-0, is presented in a stainless steel bottle with a glass viewing port, ensuring its pristine condition by enveloping it in a pure-nitrogen environment.
Visitors to the exhibit will also have the opportunity to view scale models of the ULA Atlas V rocket and the Lockheed Martin-built OSIRIS-REx probe used in the asteroid sample return mission. These models offer a captivating glimpse into the incredible technology that made this remarkable mission possible.
OREX-800027-0 is composed of dozens of smaller rocks, which have been expertly cemented back together. Remarkably, the rock shows evident signs of heavy alteration by water, providing astronomers and researchers with valuable insights into the formation of our solar system and the possibility of life on Earth.
The Smithsonian is proud to house this significant artifact, showcasing the wonders of space exploration and the importance of scientific discovery. In addition to the glass-encased rock, another Bennu fragment will be loaned out for further scientific study.
This captivating exhibit is not limited to Washington, D.C. alone. Two additional rocks from asteroid Bennu will be showcased at the University of Arizona’s Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum in Tucson and at Space Center Houston.
The unveiling of this rare asteroid rock serves as a reminder of humanity’s thirst for knowledge and our relentless pursuit of answers about the mysteries of the universe. Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the other esteemed locations will have a unique opportunity to witness a piece of space history and explore the origins of life on Earth.
With this display, the Smithsonian and NASA hope to inspire the next generation of scientists and ignite a passion for space exploration that will continue to propel humanity forward.
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