The National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC will unveil the first public display of a sample of Bennu—a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid—to museumgoers Friday, Nov. 3.
The rocky fragment was collected from the asteroid by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, the first U.S. space mission to sample the surface of a planetary body since Apollo 17 in 1972. Samples from Bennu may provide insights into how water and organic molecules first reached Earth, a core research focus of the OSIRIS-REx mission and of the museum’s new Our Unique Planet initiative.
The Smithsonian will be the first institution to display a Bennu sample to the public; it will be exhibited in the museum’s Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals meteorite gallery. In addition to the Bennu sample, museum visitors will also see scale models of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, on loan from Lockheed Martin, and the Atlas V 411 rocket that carried the spacecraft, on loan courtesy of United Launch Alliance. The display will also include a video highlighting interviews, animations and images from the mission.
Officials from the Smithsonian as well as scientists with the National Museum of Natural History and NASA will offer brief remarks and unveil the museum display of the Bennu sample to museumgoers.