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A New Jersey geology professor will be a part of history when the first U.S. mission to collect a sample from an asteroid returns to Earth on Sunday.
Dr. Harold Connelly Jr. is the founding chair of the geology department at Rowan University. He is also the mission sample scientist for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission.
The spaceship is on its way back to Earth with some precious cargo: a sample from the asteroid Bennu.
Scientists are hoping the specimen-rocks and dust collected from the asteroid’s surface will offer scientists answers about how the Earth, Sun and other planets were formed about 4.5 billion years ago.
“We’re looking to understand clues to the origin of water on Earth, the origin of life through prebiotic compounds because we know meteorites contain minerals that have water balance in them,” Connelly said.
Dr. Harold C. Conolly (second from left) posing in front of a NASA helicopter at UTTR that will be used for the actual recover of the OSIRIS-REx SRC. (Courtesy of Dr. Conolly)