‘Bennu’ is no more an asteroid

The report about evidences confirming the presence of ‘water’ in Bennu, an asteroid which orbits the sun and nearly 8 crore km away from Earth, has highly elated the world of science.

While perusing through its details, one could easily understand that this discovery is the most significant and crucial among the studies conducted by the humanity about the world outside planet Earth. NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft which set off last week on September 8, 2016 targeting Bennu flew within 19 km of the asteroid, has found traces of water molecules Hydrogen and Oxygen. Although OSIRIS-REx had revealed certain indications regarding the presence of water molecules on Bennu in last August, it has been confirmed only now. OSIRIS-REx also indicates that liquid water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, a much larger asteroid. Bennu is believed to be a remnant in the formation of solar system. The finding accelerates the much significant conclusions by the scientific world that formation of biological molecules on Earth paving way for life took place by means of comets and asteroids and also the researches based on that. Also, confirming the presence of water molecules in the solar system outside planet Earth will actuate the experiments for the search for life outside our planet.

When Bennu was discovered 20 years ago, it was merely a ‘rogue planet‘. It found a place in headlines then as an asteroid which is likely to collide with Earth in early 22nd century. However, the studies beyond this curiosity which is rooted in fear, led to other realities. One of them was related to the formation of Bennu. The asteroid is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old. That is, Bennu has been existing since the formation of solar system. In other words, the codes of phenomenon of the universe which led to the birth of solar system is concealed in Bennu as well. Therefore, finding out the structure of this asteroid and its components will benefit the researches regarding the formation of solar system which includes planet Earth we live in. It was this concept which led NASA towards the experimental mission called OSIRIS-REx. Osiris is the god of the underworld in Egyptian mythology. Bennu, on the other hand, is the self-created sun god.

As far as OSIRIS-REx is concerned, confirming the presence of water is only a bonus. The main goal of this artificial planet is to collect the samples of the soil and rocks on Bennu and send it to Earth and this will be carried out in the coming 1.5 years. The traces of water was discovered amid carrying out the mapping for that process. The researchers hope that at least 60 grams of materials collected from Bennu could be taken to Earth by 2023. It was during the Apollo project led by NASA which took man to the Moon, that materials from other planets were last collected and sent to Earth. If the OSIRIS-REx mission becomes a success, it will undoubtedly, be a breakthrough. Many studies so far point at the collection of organic compounds including carbon and aninoacids there; or in clear terms, the asteroid with basic components of life is going to be put in close observation. As a result, Osiris will prove critical the search for life outside earth. 

The seven decades of space research history has not only the elements of experiments but also the rudiments of competition; this is so considering the fact that Soviet Union launched the first satellite “Sputnik’ in the thick of cold war. The follow-on history of ‘space war’ is known to us. Beyond ‘the wars’, interests of capitalism is evident in these experiments. The best example of them is OSIRIS-REx. Commercially motivated mining projects like the one on asteroids including Ben are underway the world over. Among others, US research institute Speed Spacy agency is planning to use 3D printing technology to make electronic instruments using minerals collected from asteroids. Also, this could help collect both fuel and water required for space journey. OSIRIS-REx would blaze the trail for these projects. Given this, Bennu is not just an asteroid but a new economic source.