A European space probe found complex and solid organic molecules, which are the building blocks of life, in dust particles surrounding a comet.
The organic molecules were discovered by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe and are the first clear evidence of solid organic matter around a comet.
“Our analysis reveals carbon in a far more complex form than expected,” Dr. Hervé Cottin, one the scientists who discovered the molecules, said in a statement. “It is so complex, we can’t give it a proper formula or a name!”
The discovery supports new scientific theories that the building blocks of life on the surface of space rocks.
NASA is sending the OSIRIS-REx probe to the asteroid Bennu in 2018 where it will acquire samples of the asteroid using the Solo cup-inspired reverse vacuum device. The 4,650-pound, $800 million spacecraft will launch during a 34-day window this September and should reach Bennu sometime in 2018. The probe will collect up to four pounds of material from Bennu and return it to Earth by 2023.
Bennu is one of many near-Earth asteroids that has a small chance of one day slamming into Earth. Returning samples from it will allow NASA to better predict how asteroids move, making it easier for the space agency to stop future rocks from striking our planet.
Private companies also plan on sending probes to make contact with asteroids. Deep Space Industries (DSI) plans to do so in 2017, the company’s CEO told The Daily Caller News Foundation. DSI believes it can sell air, building material, water and propellant in space cheaper than launching from Earth. The company believes it can begin full-scale asteroid mining operations in the mid-2020s.
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