OSIRIS-REx brought more than 60 grams of asteroid sample to Earth: NASA
The 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid Bennu sample was found to be high in carbon content and water -- signalling the building blocks of life, initial studies had shown
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx has surpassed its goal of bringing at least 60 grams of rock sample from asteroid Bennu to Earth, the space agency said.
About 8.8 ounces of rocky material collected from the surface of the asteroid Bennu in 2020 was brought to Earth by the OSIRIS-REx (short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer) in late September.
The curation team processing the sample has so far removed and collected 2.48 ounces (70.3 grams) of rocks and dust from the sampler hardware, and there may be more samples to collect, the officials said in a blog post.
The 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid Bennu sample was found to be high in carbon content and water -- signalling the building blocks of life, initial studies had shown.
The sample processed so far includes the rocks and dust found on the outside of the sampler head, as well as a portion of the bulk sample from inside the head, which was accessed through the head’s mylar flap.
Additional material remaining inside the sampler head, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM, is set for removal later, adding to the mass total.
In the last week, the team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston changed its approach to opening the TAGSAM head, which contained the bulk of the rocks and dust.
After multiple attempts at removal, the team discovered two of the 35 fasteners on the TAGSAM head could not be removed with the current tools approved for use in the OSIRIS-REx glovebox.
The team has been working to develop and implement new approaches to extract the material inside the head, while continuing to keep the sample safe and pristine.
As a first step, the team successfully accessed some of the material by holding down the head’s mylar flap and removing the sample inside with tweezers or a scoop, depending on material size.
The collection and containment of material through this method, combined with the earlier collection of material located outside the head, yielded a total mass exceeding the 60 grams required.
The team will spend the next few weeks developing and practising a new procedure to remove the remaining asteroid sample from the TAGSAM sampler head while simultaneously processing the material that was collected this week.
The OSIRIS-REx science team will also proceed with its plan to characterise the extracted material and begin analysis of the bulk sample obtained so far.
While the procedure to access the final portion of the material is being developed, the team has removed the TAGSAM head from the active flow of nitrogen in the glovebox and stored it in its transfer container, sealed with an O-ring and surrounded by a sealed Teflon bag to make sure the sample is kept safe in a stable, nitrogen-rich, environment.
Published: 24 Oct 2023, 5:07 PM