Asteroid sample return holds more than expected

Scientists working to open a sample canister containing rocks and dust from the asteroid Bennu ran into a problem: There is a lot of it.

The process of disassembling the TAGSAM (Touch Sample Acquisition Mechanism) head takes longer than expected due to… An abundance of material was found when the can lid was removed NASA last week books In a blog post. But this is not a bad problem.

In October 2020, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft landed on the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. He extracted a sample from its surface. Scientists expect to find additional parts of the asteroid in the tray outside the TAGSAM, an articulated arm on the spacecraft with a round sampling head at the end used to capture the sample. This hypothesis arose when they observed particles slowly leaking from the head before being stored, according to NASA. This assumption was not only correctbut there were also dark particles covering the inside of the case lid and the base surrounding TAGSAM, much more than expected.

“The best problem we have is that there is a lot of material, and collecting it is taking longer than we expected,” Christopher Sneed, deputy chief of the OSIRIS-REx curation process at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said in a statement. “There is a lot of abundant material outside of TAGSAM’s head that is interesting in its own right. It’s really amazing that we have all this material there.

When the aluminum lid of the sample can was first removed, the mission team Black dust and debris were found on the avionics surface of the case. Scientists are now performing a rapid analysis of that initial sample, “which will provide a preliminary understanding of Bennu’s material and what we can expect to find when the collected sample is revealed,” NASA wrote.

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Bennu is a small near-Earth asteroid that passes by Earth every six years or so. Scientists believe that Bennu may have separated from a much larger, carbon-rich asteroid about 700 million to 2 billion years ago, and has drifted close to Earth ever since. Analysis of an asteroid sample may help scientists piece together Earth’s origin story, and how the essential elements of life might have been delivered to our planet by asteroids.

Preliminary results from the sample, along with some images of rocks and dust, will be revealed during a live broadcast on October 11 at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Over the coming weeks, the curation team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will move the TAGSAM head into a different specialized glove box, where it will be dismantled to reveal the collected sample inside.

OSIRIS-REx mission Dropped asteroid samples In the Utah desert on September 24, where she was flown to a clean room. From there, the clean room team packed all parts of the sample capsule for transport by plane to Johnson Space Center. The team is very careful not to allow any ground contaminants to enter the sample tray, keeping the life story intact.

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