NASA mission collected at least 70 grams of material from as…

NASA recently brought back its first sample from an asteroid, with the OSIRIS-REx mission dropping a sample from asteroid Bennu in the Utah desert. The mission’s goal was to collect at least 60 grams of material, and NASA has now revealed that a total of 70.3 grams of material has been extracted from the sampler so far.

The researchers did not know in advance how much material they had collected, because they were not able to perform the necessary maneuvers with the spacecraft to estimate the mass while the sample was in transit. They had decided not to perform the acceleration maneuver that would have allowed them to measure mass, due to a problem that occurred during sample collection, when a rock opened the door of the sample canister and allowed some of the sample to spill out. . To prevent the loss of any more samples, the canister was quickly placed inside the spacecraft.

Two NASA personnel carry a container holding a sample collected from the Bennu asteroid.
NASA personnel carry a container holding a sample collected from the Bennu asteroid. NASA

Although initial estimates of how much material was in the sample were in the hundreds of grams, there was significant uncertainty in those estimates. But even the current amount of material collected is enough for researchers to work with. For example, Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid sample return mission was able to collect about 5 grams, which researchers have been working on busily since 2020.

Scientists have already done a quick first-look analysis of the material that was outside the OSIRIS-REx canister, and one of these researchers, Pierre Hennecour, told that his group could work for years on even a tiny particle . The bounty of sample material will be shared among various laboratories in the US and abroad, with some of the samples going to the Japanese space agency JAXA, for example, in exchange for some of the Hayabusa 2 sample that was shared with NASA.

However, extracting the sample from the canister has proven more complicated than initially expected. The curation team had problems removing two of the 25 fasteners holding the specimen within the collection mechanism, as they are only able to do so using specialized tools within the sealed glovebox that holds the mechanism. They were able to collect 70 grams by pressing down a flap and painstakingly removing pieces of the specimen with tweezers.

NASA has shared that the team is now working on a new process to open up the mechanism, which will hopefully result in them being able to collect even more samples.

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