by Mel Acheson
Artist's drawing of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/The University of
Are carbonaceous asteroids the
precursors of life or the wreckage of life?
The spacecraft will orbit the Near Earth Object
1999-RQ36. After a year in close orbit, the probe will gather a
sample of material from the object’s surface and bring the sample
back to Earth.
Mission scientists are hoping to gain some insight into how to deflect it if it should threaten to collide with the Earth. The primary goal of the mission is to get a sample of “asteroid dust” and to examine it in a lab.
According to presently accepted theory, asteroids were the leftovers when planets condensed out of the solar accretion disk that formed the Solar System a few billions of years ago.
Astronomers expect to find,
Judging from previous missions, what the astronomers find will,
They will not have collected a sample of “pristine material” but a sample of unquestioned presumptions from an obsolete theory.
theory of planet formation never worked; astronomers abandoned it at
one time; but they resurrected it because they could think of
enable them to interpret the surprising new data in an acceptable
way, or at least in a way that will excuse attention to unorthodox
People around the world at the dawn of
history were obsessed with observing and recording the movements of
bodies in the sky. Modern astronomers accept the ancient
astronomers’ identifications of those bodies as planets when
remarking on their observational skills. When the content of the
observations reveals a sky and movements that contradict the
textbooks, the ancient evidence is dismissed out of hand as
fantasies about gods.
Instead of taking for granted their
speculation that 1999RQ36 is a pristine sample of billion-year-old
proto-life, they would consider that it might be a space-fried
fragment of life recently blasted from the ruins of the Earth.