NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, aimed at collecting samples from the asteroid Bennu, has encountered a difficulty in opening the sample capsule. The team recently discovered that two of the fasteners on the TAGSAM (Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) head cannot be removed with the current tools.
To ensure the preservation of the sample’s pristine state, all curation work is being performed in a specialized glovebox. However, this setback has prompted researchers to develop new approaches to access the rocks and dust inside the sample using approved tools.
Despite the challenges faced by the team, they have already collected an impressive 70.3 grams of rocks and dust, surpassing NASA’s initial goal of 60 grams. However, there is still more remaining sample to be collected.
The sample processed so far includes material from the outside of the sampler head and a portion of the bulk sample from inside. The remaining material inside the sampler head will only be removed once the fastener issue is resolved. However, the team managed to access some material by holding down the head’s mylar flap, resulting in a total mass that exceeds the required 60 grams.
While continuing to process the material collected, the team will work on developing a new procedure to remove the remaining sample. The extracted material will then be characterized and analyzed by the OSIRIS-REx science team.
To ensure the sample’s safety in a stable environment, the TAGSAM head has been stored in a sealed container. It is crucial to protect this valuable sample, as it was collected from Bennu’s surface in 2020, marking a significant milestone for the OSIRIS-REx mission.
Despite the current hurdles, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission remains optimistic and determined to overcome these challenges. The team’s relentless efforts will further expand our understanding of asteroids and their composition, ultimately contributing to our knowledge of the solar system.
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