It looks like NASA chose the right space rock for its asteroid-sampling mission.
The agency’s OSIRIS-REx probe, which just arrived at Bennu last week, has already found hydrated minerals on the 1,640-foot-wide (500 meters) near-Earth asteroid, mission team members announced yesterday (Dec. 10).
The discovery suggests that liquid water was once plentiful in the interior of Bennu’s parent body, which scientists think was a roughly 62-mile-wide (100 kilometers) rock in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. (Bennu is likely a pile of rubble that coalesced after a massive impact shattered that larger object hundreds of millions of years ago.)
OSIRIS-REx’s main goal involves helping scientists better understand the solar system’s early days and the role that asteroids like Bennu may have played in delivering water and the chemical building blocks of life to Earth. So, the water find is big news for the mission team.