Teaspoon-sized sample of Bennu asteroid arrives at London's Natural History Museum

Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London have taken possession of a teaspoon-sized 100mg sample of the asteroid Bennu - recently brought back to Earth from space by NASA.

There it will undergo extensive scientific examination. Despite its minuscule size, the material is anticipated to hold crucial insights into the formation of planets and the solar system.

In a historic seven-year mission that ended this September, NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security - Regolith Explorer) achieved the distinction of the first retrieval of a sample from an asteroid in space that was successfully transported back to Earth. Now, this sample has been distributed among an international team of experts - who aim to study it to help explain some of the most profound mysteries surrounding our solar system. Bennu, a carbon-rich asteroid, contains approximately 5 per cent organic matter by mass. The hope is that these organic compounds can provide valuable clues about the origins of life on Earth. Additionally, researchers believe Bennu may house extraterrestrial water within its minerals.

Professor Sara Russell, Senior Research Lead at the Natural History Museum, also expressed immense excitement.

"We have been waiting seven years for the sample to return to Earth, so it is hugely exciting for us to now have some of it here at the Natural History Museum," she said. "This material, no more than about a teaspoon's worth, will keep us busy for years as we study each minute grain to understand its composition and structure and see what secrets we can unlock."

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson previously remarked: "Almost everything we do at NASA seeks to answer questions about who we are and where we come from. NASA missions like OSIRIS-REx will improve our understanding of asteroids that could threaten Earth while giving us a glimpse into what lies beyond. The sample has made it back to Earth, but there is still so much science to come - science like we've never seen before."