After a seven-year journey through the solar system, a space capsule about the size of a car tire returned to Earth Sunday with a cargo of asteroid rocks and dust that scientists are eager to see. The pod touched down in the Utah desert and was flown by helicopter to a waiting clean room to avoid contamination. The samples from a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu could offer a look at the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago and maybe some hints about how life got started on Earth.
Class discussion: What do you know about the formation of our solar system? How could this bunch of rocks help scientists learn more about our own planet? Bennu’s obit around the sun gives it an outside chance of hitting Earth in the next 300 years. Could learning more about the construction of this asteroid help humanity avoid some future catastrophe? While asteroids or comets hitting Earth may have led to past extinctions, how could these collisions also have helped make life on this planet possible?