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Asteroid Sampling

April 19, 2010

Asteroids contain keys to the origin of the solar system, but the ones that reach earth are easily contaminated. Scientists reveal a new plan to sample them in space.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Sampling asteroids in space. I\’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Asteroids that fall to earth reveal a great deal about the early solar system. That’s because they contain remnants of the clouds, dust and gases that formed the sun and planets 4 ½ billion years ago. Unfortunately, these asteroids are easily contaminated once they reach earth. To get around this problem, chemist Joseph Nuth and his colleagues at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have proposed an unmanned sampling mission to a small asteroid called RQ36.

JOSEPH NUTH (Goddard Spaceflight Center):
The materials that we bring back from RQ36 are going to be isolated from pretty much everything until we analyze them. Material that should be nearly unchanged from the early solar system.

HIRSHON:
He says one objective of the proposed mission is to determine whether asteroids contain building blocks of life such as amino acids and sugars. I\’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.