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NASA first as capsule returns with asteroid sample offering clue into human genesis




A NASA space capsule carrying the largest soil sample ever scooped up from the surface of an asteroid has streaked through Earth’s atmosphere and parachuted into the Utah desert, delivering the celestial specimen to scientists.

The gumdrop-shaped capsule, released from the robotic spacecraft OSIRIS-REx as the mothership passed within 108,000km of Earth hours earlier, touched down within a designated landing zone west of Salt Lake City on the US Military’s vast Utah Test and Training Range.

The final descent and landing, shown on a NASA livestream, capped a six-year joint mission between the US space agency and the University of Arizona.

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It marked only the third asteroid sample, and by far the biggest, ever returned to Earth for analysis, following two similar missions by Japan’s space agency ending in 2010 and 2020.

After touchdown, the capsule laid nose-down on the sandy floor of the Utah desert, a red-and-white parachute that slowed its high-speed descent resting just feet away after detaching.