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NASA sending robotic spacecraft to asteroid in 2016

Sharon Gaudin | May 25, 2011
NASA announced on Wednesday that it's working to send a robotic spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 -- all in an effort to help scientists discover how life began.

Drake said the don't believe there was ever life or anything dangerous on the asteroid but instead they want to protect the sample from being contaminated with anything from Earth.

The space agency noted that asteroids are left-overs formed from the cloud of gas and dust that collapsed to form our sun and the planets about 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists calculate that they contain the original planet- and star-forming material, which they hope can tell us about the conditions of our solar system's birth.

NASA also pointed out that the asteroid, little altered over time, is likely to represent a snapshot of our solar system's infancy.

"This asteroid is a time capsule from the birth of our solar system and ushers in a new era of planetary exploration," Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said in a written statement. "The knowledge from the mission also will help us to develop methods to better track the orbits of asteroids."


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