Queen guitarist Brian May helps NASA return an asteroid sample to Earth

The legendary guitarist recently completed his PhD in astrophysics to help NASA send its first asteroid sample back to Earth. The sample was taken from the asteroid Bennu.


When he’s not appearing on stage as a founding member of Queen, Brian May enjoys a healthy scientific interest in space.

But stargazing or researching the nature of the universe isn’t just a pastime for the 76-year-old guitar legend. May, an accomplished scientist with a doctorate in astrophysics, recently helped NASA send its first asteroid sample back to Earth.

A sample containing rocks and dust was obtained from an asteroid Determine It returned to Earth’s orbit on Sunday. May was an integral part of the mission, which produced stereoscopic images that allowed the mission leader and crew to locate a safe landing spot on an asteroid that is likely to collide with Earth in the future.

“When this box is opened from the surface of Bennu, it could tell us an untold secret about the origin of the universe, the origin or origin of our planet and life.” May said in a statement on his website on Monday. “What an incredibly exciting day.”

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Brian May was rehearsing for the Queen tour when Model reached Earth

The result was the culmination of nearly two decades of work in 2016 I saw the beginning The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on its way to Bennu.

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The model itself Collected in 2020Two years after the asteroid The smallest object ever to orbit by a spaceship, According to NASA. Journey of the spaceship OSIRIS-REx (Origin, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Conservation, Regolith Explorer) Return to Earth launched in May 2021.

In addition to creating stereoscopic images, May – who was knighted in March – co-wrote a book with team leader Dante Lauretta.Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an Asteroid.”

Unfortunately, he was unable to be present in May when NASA received the sample, as the Queen was preparing for a US tour. Starting next week in Baltimore. But the guitarist congratulated the crew in a clip aired on Sunday NASA TV.

“My heart goes out to you as this precious specimen is recovered,” he said.

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Why is asteroid Bennu of scientific interest?

A sample from Bennu, which passes close to Earth every six years, is not remarkable for returning the first American asteroid sample in history.

It also provides scientists A window into the early solar system It first formed billions of years ago, throwing up the raw materials that could have even seeded life on Earth, according to NASA.

The asteroid, which is more than 4.5 billion years old, is believed to have broken up from a much larger carbon-rich asteroid between 700 million and 2 billion years ago. Discovered in 1999, Bennu likely formed in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter before passing too close to Earth.

Studying it should help researchers make discoveries to better understand the events that led to planet formation and life on Earth. According to NASA, scientists hope to learn more about hazardous asteroids.

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“Bennu is a dangerous asteroid, and what we learn from the model will help us better understand the types of asteroids that might come our way,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

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OSIRIS-REx dropped a capsule containing an estimated 8.8-ounce sample on Sunday morning, which landed unharmed. Landing in Utah’s western desert Scientists waited near Salt Lake City.

It was then scheduled to be transported in an unopened container to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Monday. Once there, the scientists planned to extract and weigh the sample and catalog the rocks and dust before preparing to distribute the pieces to scientists around the world.

OSIRIS-REx did not land after dropping off the sample capsule in Utah, instead embarking on a new mission to study a different asteroid, Apophis, which it plans to reach in 2029. The space agency said.

Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at [email protected]

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