NASA: Faced Problem

NASA was successful in grabbing a sample of rock and dust from an asteroid speeding through space more than 200 million miles from Earth which is an extraordinary achievement last week. But after its collection NASA almost imperiled losing the collected material as some of it was escaping out of the collectors head of spacecraft.

The reason behind the leak from the sample collector was the gap in the collector’s lid due to the larger pieces of material that it had gathered which wedged opened it.

NASA was able to safely stow the remaining material which is a good news as it prevented the loss of any more material, although the target collection weight of 2 ounces (60 grams) exceeded inside the Sample Return Capsule.

Capsule Lid was closed

NASA in an article described the event by stating that the capsule was secured as the spacecraft closed the lid and then fastened two internal latches, which all happened in the last few days. The sample of Bennu was ready for its journey to Earth as it was safely stored.

NASA Bennu Asteroid Sample
The left image shows the OSIRIS-REx collector head hovering over the sample return capsule. The right image shows the collector head secured onto the capture ring

In March 2021, NASA will begin its long trip back home of OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft. The expected landing for the capsule and its all-important contents after which the rock and dust will undergo analysis in a lab is on September 2023.

Advantages of Bennu’s Sample

Scientists believes that the Bennu’s sample will help to know its formation which is believed to come into existence in the first 10 million years of our solar system’s existence i.e. 4.5 billion years ago and it will perhaps reveal new facts about the origins of life.

Bennu is the size of the Empire State Building nearing 500 meters in length charging at a speed of about 63,000 miles per hour through space and rotating too.

How Sample was collected?

After launching of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from Cape Canaveral in Florida two years earlier it came close to the asteroid in December 2018.

Descending to the planned collection site known as Nightingale was involved as last week the spacecraft embarked on the challenge of gathering the sample of the asteroid. The spacecraft performed a maneuver in the final moments before touchdown to moderate its descent and match the asteroid’s rotation at the time of contact.

nasa secures sample of asteroid bennu to send home to earth bioreports 1

NASA said that after that the spacecraft continued traitorous coast of 11 minutes to touch down in a clear spot in a crater on Bennu’s northern hemisphere past a boulder the size of a two-story building which is nicknamed as Mount Doom. Nightingale site is a small parking lot which is one of the few relatively clear spots on this unforeseen boulder-covered space rock. Before the spacecraft quickly moved away from the asteroid, a robotic arm was then able to get a sample of rock and dust.

Although the leak threatened loss of some or most of the material but still the collection process was deemed a success. But it is the best news for all the members of the mission and the scientist waiting for analysis as NASA confirmed that it has managed to secure the sample.

NASA: Not First

JAXA, Japan’s NASA equivalent has performed a similar maneuver that has been performed twice in recent years, although grabbing a sample from an asteroid was a first for NASA.


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