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NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft successfully scooped up rocky area dust from the asteroid Bennu on Friday. In a sense, it completed its job too well: Scientists quickly understood that the spacecraft’s sample-collecting arm had gathered so much product that its valves would not close. That was leading the dust to leak back into space.
” Time is of the essence,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Objective Directorate at NASA, said.
So this week, the mission team instructed Osiris-Rex to keep its sample inside the designated return pill ahead of schedule. On Thursday, NASA validated that the spacecraft had actually successfully done so..
” I am very pleased with the sample that we have actually collected,” Dante Lauretta, the Osiris-Rex objective lead, said in an instruction on Thursday. Scientists are quite sure the spacecraft stowed away a minimum of 2 pounds (1 kilogram) of asteroid dust, likewise called regolith, he included.
That’s even more than the mission’s minimum goal of 2.1 ounces, which is about the mass of a little bag of potato chips. The leaking that happened before the sample was stored away was just a matter of “10s of grams,” according to Lauretta.
As soon as Osiris-Rex go back to Earth in 2023, it’s set to drop the pill holding the asteroid material into the environment. The capsule needs to parachute down into the Utah desert for NASA to pick up. It will be the firm’s first sample collected from an asteroid.
Navigating a spacecraft 200 million miles away.
To collect its asteroid sample, Osiris-Rex needed to fly through a dangerous rock field and give Bennu a type of cosmic high-five– it touched the surface for simply six seconds.
The day after that quick landing, the spacecraft beamed pictures of its precious cargo back to NASA, however the researchers saw particles wandering away. The mission group had actually previously prepared to spend a couple weeks evaluating the sample, but they feared losing excessive material to the vacuum of space. They hurried the storage process, working day and night for 2 days to guarantee the sample-collection arm could appropriately secure the sample inside the pill.
The arm’s wrist had to line up appropriately with the capsule so they ‘d meshed, which sounds simple, however due to the fact that the spacecraft is 200 million miles away, every command and response dealt with an 18- minute lag.
By Tuesday, the probe’s arm had successfully placed its dripping sample-collecting head into the open pill. To ensure it was locked in, the group directed the arm to yank on the collector head again and make sure it was firmly secured.
By the following day, the group had separated the sample-collecting head from its arm and sealed the return capsule shut.
‘ The more the merrier’ when it comes to sample material.
Osiris-Rex is anticipated to start its long journey home in March2021 It’s slated to return the storage pill to Earth on September 24,2023 Within days of the sample’s landing in Utah, the team hopes to begin evaluating it at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. NASA will likewise preserve a few of the regolith for future research study.
” These samples returned from Bennu will also permit future planetary researchers to ask questions we can’t even think about today and to be able to use analysis techniques that aren’t even created yet,” Lori Glaze, the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Department, said.
That research study might be crucial over the next 100- plus years, because Bennu’s course puts it at risk of crashing into Earth.
” Bennu is among the most possibly harmful asteroids, with a non-negligible chance of affecting the Earth at some point in the 22 nd century,” Lauretta said last month. “Part of our science investigation is about understanding its orbital trajectory, improving the impact probability, and recording its physical and chemical residential or commercial properties so that future generations can develop an impact-mitigation objective, if that’s essential.”.
There are other important reasons to study Bennu too: As new missions go deeper into space, they will likely need to make pit stops to mine asteroids for resources like water, which can be divided into oxygen and hydrogen for rocket fuel. The data NASA is gathering from Bennu could assist notify future asteroid-mining attempts.
Similar research study could likewise take a look at asteroid samples from Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, which is set to bring its product back to Earth in December.
The big volume of regolith that Osiris-Rex gathered means NASA will be able to send the alien rock to more laboratories for more experiments than would have been possible had it gathered simply the minimum 2.1 ounces.
” My objective is to get the sample out to as many certified laboratories around the world as possible as quickly as possible,” Lauretta stated. “There’s terrific discoveries to be made, and we it appears like we have abundant sample, so the more the merrier.” SEE ALSO: A NASA spacecraft simply arrived at an asteroid to draw up rocky dust to remind Earth. Here’s how the mission works.
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