NASA is working to prevent the probe from losing too much asteroid sample dust

NASA announced on Friday that its robotic spacecraft OSIRIS-REx had managed to collect a large sample of particles from the Bennu asteroid this week – but so much that it leaked.

The team responsible for the probe is now working to quickly stow away the remaining samples, which will eventually be returned to Earth for readiness important scientific findings.

“A significant part of the required collected mass escapes,” said head of mission Dante Lauretta in a telephone meeting with journalists.

OSIRIS-REx is expected to come home in September 2023, hopefully with the largest sample from space since the Apollo era that will help uncover the origins of our solar system.

The probe is said to have collected about 400 grams of fragments, far more than the 60 grams minimum, Lauretta said.

However, the lid for the collector at the end of the probe arm, in which the fragments are stored, was slightly wedged open by larger stones, creating a leak, the scientists suspect.

In a cloud that remains more or less in the vicinity, five to ten grams have already been observed around the collecting arm, since the fragments behave like liquids due to the weightlessness.

“My big concern now is that the particles will escape because we were almost a victim of our own success here,” said Lauretta.

As a result, a plan to conduct a mass measurement on Saturday was canceled due to the risk of further samples being scattered.

The task now is to reduce the activity of the spacecraft as much as possible and to prepare to stow the material as quickly as possible in a capsule on the probe.

Is OSIRIS-REx, which was introduced more than four years ago, in danger of losing its treasure? The exact volume of the leak is not yet known, but the experts seemed relatively confident that it would not.

“Bennu continues to surprise us with great science and also throws a few curveballs,” NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement.

“And while we may need to move faster to stow the sample, this isn’t a bad problem. We’re so excited to see what an abundant sample appears to be that will inspire science for decades beyond this historic moment. “


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