NASA Successfully Stows Asteriod Sample, Manages to Close Leaky Spacecraft - Statement

Katie Ramirez
November 3, 2020

As of late October 28, the sample of Bennu is safely stored and ready for its journey to Earth, NASA said.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has successfully stowed the "abundant" sample collected from the asteroid Bennu.

The OSIRIS-REx team will now focus on preparing the spacecraft for the next phase of the mission - Earth Return Cruise. It aims to obtain between 60 grams and 2 kilograms of sample material.

The OSIRIS-REx's Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) is the main challenge of NASA's team that endured a four-day procedure to stow the Sample Return Capsule (SRC).

It will be September 2023 - seven years after OSIRIS-REx launched from Cape Canaveral - before the samples arrive here.

When scientists turned a camera on the sample collector, they were ecstatic that it appeared full, but also alarmed that material appeared to be escaping back into space. However, images sent back to Earth following the sample collection on October 20 showed that a mylar flap, which had been created to keep the sample inside the collection head, was wedged open by large rocks allowing the sample to slowly drift into space. "This is like sampling the original ingredients for making planets".

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"Just imagine a bag of flour at the grocery store", said Loretta of the initial load.

While collecting the samples, Loretta said the container at the end of the robot's arm pressed 9 to 19 inches (24 to 48 cm) apart within six seconds of contact, indicating the presence of flaky sand from the inside under the rough surface.

The operation, which took about 36 hours, was completed on Wednesday. After each successful move, flight controllers cheered, providing the largest and highest response when the cap on the capsule was closed and finally closed, sealing the samples inside. OSIRIS-REx would soon come, bringing Bennu's sample and serve as the foundation to uncover the Solar System's secrets.

Asteroids are remnants from the early formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago, and studying them is expected to provide fresh insights into the formation of the solar system and the origins of life. The samples also can help improve our odds, they said, if a doomsday rock heads our way.

Last Tuesday, the probe's robotic arm kicked up a debris cloud of rocks on Bennu and trapped the materials in a collection device to return to Earth. The good news is that while packing a punch, it won't wipe out the home planet.

Meanwhile, Japan has recovered samples from other asteroids twice in the past two decades, despite meager quantities.

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