NASA Working to Prevent Probe Losing Too Much of Asteroid Sample Dust

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NASA mentioned Friday that its robotic spacecraft OSIRIS-REx had succeeded in accumulating a big pattern of particles from the Bennu asteroid this week — however a lot that it was leaking.

The staff answerable for the probe is now working to rapidly stow the remaining samples that might finally be delivered again to Earth to offer key scientific insights.

“A considerable fraction of the required collected mass is seen escaping,” mission chief Dante Lauretta mentioned in a telephone briefing with journalists.

OSIRIS-REx is about to come back residence in September 2023, hopefully with the most important pattern returned from area because the Apollo period, which is able to assist unravel the origins of our photo voltaic system.

The probe is believed to have collected some 400 grams of fragments, excess of the minimal of 60 grams wanted, Lauretta mentioned.

However the lid for the collector on the finish of the probe’s arm the place the fragments are being saved has been barely wedged open by bigger rocks, making a leak, the scientists suspect.

5 to 10 grams have already been noticed across the assortment arm in a cloud remaining roughly within the surrounding space as a result of microgravity setting which makes fragments behave like fluids.

“My large concern now’s that the particles are escaping as a result of we have been virtually a sufferer of our personal success right here,” Lauretta mentioned.

Because of this, a plan to hold out a mass measurement on Saturday has been cancelled because it might threat scattering additional samples.

The duty is now to cut back as a lot as doable the spacecraft’s actions and put together to stow the fabric in a capsule on the probe as rapidly as doable.

Is OSIRIS-REx, launched greater than 4 years in the past, vulnerable to dropping its treasure? The quantity of the leak isn’t but exactly recognized, however the consultants appeared comparatively assured that might not be the case.

“Bennu continues to shock us with nice science and in addition throwing just a few curveballs,” Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA affiliate administrator, mentioned in an announcement.

“And though we could have to maneuver extra rapidly to stow the pattern, it isn’t a foul downside to have. We’re so excited to see what seems to be an plentiful pattern that may encourage science for many years past this historic second.”


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