NASA on Wednesday gave the public a first glimpse of what scientists found inside a sealed capsule that was returned to Earth last month carrying a carbon-rich soil sample scooped from an asteroid's surface, including water-bearing clay minerals.

A small quantity of the material collected by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft three years ago from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu was unveiled in an auditorium at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, a little more than two weeks after it was parachuted into the Utah desert.

The return capsule's landing capped a seven-year joint mission of the U.S. space agency and the University of Arizona. It was only the third asteroid sample, and by far the biggest, returned to Earth for analysis, following two similar missions by Japan's space agency ending in 2010 and 2020.