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NASA spacecraft spilled asteroid material samples into space

Monday, November 2, 2020, 19:00 PM (GMT + 7)

The OSIRIX-Rex appears to have collected more specimens than expected.

On October 20, NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft completed its approach to the asteroid Bennu and collect samples. This is the core process of a $ 800 million project to collect samples from the asteroid to study the life-forming process of the Solar System.

It appears, however, that there was an incident where OSIRIS-Rex collected too much matter, causing the sampler to not close tightly, resulting in part of the matter flying into space.

After analyzing the image taken with the SamCam camera on the OSIRIS-Rex on October 22, 2020, the scientists found that the sampling device’s head was filled with dust and rocks collected from Bennu and some dust particles flew into the air. time.

Camera images on board OSIRIX-Rex show rock dust scattered in space.

Shortly thereafter, the OSIRIS-Rex operators decided it was urgent to plan to load the specimen into the ship’s biosphere as soon as possible to minimize the loss of material.

The OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft was launched in September 2016 and reached Bennu in December 2018. The main objective of the mission is to bring at least 60 g of primitive matter from Bennu back to Earth. It seems the OSIRIS-Rex has collected a lot more than expected, causing a portion of it to be lost into space.

The collection only lasted 6 seconds, when OSIRIS-Rex’s Robot arm protruded, touched Bennu’s surface, drilled up to 48cm deep and sucked in a quantity of material, then took off. This process takes place completely automatically because the radio signal has a delay of up to 38 minutes, making it impossible for scientists to manipulate them.

NASA spacecraft spills asteroid material samples into space - 2

Simulate how the OSIRIX-Rex ship collects soil and rock from Bennu.

Through photos taken by the spacecraft, scientists estimate at least hundreds of grams of rock dust from Bennu has been sucked in. Initially, they planned to weigh the specimen on October 24, the activity that required the OSIRIS-REx to spin. But this is likely to lose more asteroid dust particles, so the team members plan to go straight to storing the specimen without weighing, as the images show the amount of material obtained. has exceeded requirements.

“Even though we have to do the process faster, that’s not a bad problem. We are excited to see that this large amount of specimens will become the subject of research decades after this moment. This history, “said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate science director at NASA headquarters in Washington, said.

The OSIRIS-REx is flying away from the surface of Bennu and will not reach the asteroid again. After successfully storing the specimen, the spacecraft will continue to follow Bennu’s orbit, until early March of the following year, it will begin its journey back to Earth. By 2023, the spacecraft will return and release a gyroscope containing the specimen in the Utah desert.

Asteroid dust and rock samples will be sent to the laboratory so that scientists can study and find clues about the early solar system. This may reveal the role of a carbon-rich celestial body like Bennu in shaping life on Earth.

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