Analysis of the Bennu Asteroid Sample

Analysis of the Bennu Asteroid Sample
Asteroid 101955 Bennu

In 2016, NASA launched a spacecraft to the asteroid Bennu with the goal of collecting a sample and returning it to Earth for analysis. The canister containing the sample material arrived back on Earth last year. Everything worked fine until scientists tried to open the canister. Thirty-two screws held the container closed, and two of them were stuck. Scientists were cautious not to contaminate the asteroid material with Earth molecules, so they had to develop a new tool to remove the stuck screws. On January 10, 2024, they succeeded in opening the canister to analyze the contents. Analysis of the Bennu asteroid sample gave interesting results.

Some people have suggested that creation occurred in various regions of the universe with different materials. Those who promote that idea have maintained that chance, not creative design, formed the cosmos. They predicted that material from outer space would contain different elements arranged differently from what we see on Earth. The Genesis account maintains that creation is a singular act of God, and Proverbs 8:22-30 indicates that He used wisdom in the creation.

The Bennu minerals contain no elements that don’t exist on Earth, and the rocks formed by those elements contain no surprises. They contain serpentinite formed from olivine and pyroxene. Those minerals are familiar to anyone who has taken a petrology course. Analysis of the Bennu asteroid sample shows evidence of being formed by ice made of carbon monoxide and ammonia. That requires extremely cold conditions, which could only exist far from the Sun. Temperatures needed to form carbon monoxide and ammonia ice do not exist on any of the inner planets. So, Bennu was formed in the outer solar system beyond Mars.

We still have much to learn about how the formation of the solar system, and this research may be more critical as humans venture beyond the Moon into outer space. Even the possibility of establishing human colonies on other planets will depend on what materials are available there. Analysis of the Bennu asteroid sample is only the beginning. The more we learn about the solar system, the more we realize the importance of the unique features of Earth. It also reminds us of how essential it is to care for the planet God has given us.

— John N. Clayton ¬© 2024

Reference: Science News, March 9, 2024, page 7.