When he’s not gracing the stage as a founding member of Queen, Brian May has a healthy scientific interest in outer space.
But it’s not just a hobby for the 76-year-old guitar legend to stargaze or investigate the nature of the universe. May, an accomplished scientist with a doctorate in astrophysics, recently helped NASA return the first ever asteroid sample to Earth.
The sample, consisting of rocks and dust, was obtained from the asteroid Pino On Sunday, it arrived back in Earth’s orbit. May was an integral part of the mission, creating holograms that allowed the mission commander and her team to find a safe landing spot on the asteroid, which has the potential to collide with Earth at some point in the future.
“This box, when opened from material from Bennu’s surface, could tell us an untold secret about the origins of the universe, the origins of our planet and the origins of life itself.” May said in a statement on his website on Monday. “What an incredibly exciting day.”
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Brian May was rehearsing for a Queen tour when the sample hit the ground
The result is the culmination of a nearly two-decade-long mission in 2016 Saw the launch From the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft heading to Bennu.
The sample itself Collected in 2020Two years after the asteroid turned into… The smallest object ever to orbit by spacecraft, According to NASA. Spacecraft flight Osiris Rex (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) Then the return to Earth began in May 2021.
In addition to developing the holograms, May – who was knighted in March – has co-authored a book about the mission with team leader Dante Lauretta titled “Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an Asteroid“.
It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t be there in person when NASA received the sample because Quinn is preparing to tour the United States It starts next week in Baltimore. But the guitarist congratulated the crew on Sunday in a clip that aired NASA TV.
“My heart remains with you as this precious specimen is recovered,” he said.
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Why does the asteroid Bennu receive scientific attention?
The sample from Bennu, which passes by Earth about every six years, is not only noteworthy as the first American asteroid sample returned in history.
As scholars provide A window into the early solar system It was also forming for the first time billions of years ago, spewing out ingredients that could have seeded life on Earth, NASA says.
The asteroid, which is more than 4.5 billion years old, is believed to have separated from a much larger, carbon-rich asteroid about 700 million to 2 billion years ago. Bennu, which was discovered in 1999, likely formed in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter before drifting closer to Earth.
Studying it is supposed to help researchers make discoveries to better understand the formation of the planet and the events that led to the creation of life on Earth. Scientists also expect to be able to learn more about potentially dangerous asteroids, according to NASA.
“Bennu is a potentially dangerous asteroid, and what we learn from the sample will help us better understand the types of asteroids that could come our way,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
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OSIRIS-REx dropped a capsule containing the estimated 8.8-ounce sample Sunday morning and parachuted to Earth without causing any damage. Landing in the western Utah desert Near Salt Lake City where scientists were waiting for her.
It is then scheduled to be transported in its unopened packaging to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Monday. Once there, the scientists planned to extract and weigh the sample, creating an inventory of rocks and dust before preparing it for distribution to scientists around the world.
OSIRIS-REx did not land the sample capsule in Utah, but instead set off on a new mission to study a different asteroid called Apophis that is scheduled to reach it in 2029. The space agency said.
Eric Lagata covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Contact him at [email protected]
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