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NASA's asteroid samples may be crumbs from an ancient ocean world

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https://gizmodo.com/nasas-asteroid-sampl...1851234881

INTRO: After months of frustration, NASA finally got the Bennu asteroid sample container open in January, revealing the large amounts of asteroid scooped up by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Now, a top member of the mission says the distant hunk of space rock may be a planetesimal—a planet’s building block—that once belonged to an ocean world.

Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and principal investigator on the OSIRIS-REx mission, told New Scientist that “my working hypothesis is that this was an ancient ocean world.”

While “highly speculative,” as Lauretta told Space.com, that’s what the high levels of phosphates in the Bennu samples are suggesting. Phosphorus is a building block of life and was found last year being spat up by the subsurface oceans on Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn. Because water is a prerequisite for life as we know it, these ocean worlds are a main target of missions with an eye toward astrobiology, the search for life beyond Earth... (MORE - details)
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