NASA’s OSIRIS-REx robotic spacecraft will begin a delicate operation Tuesday to store the precious particles it collected from the asteroid Bennu, but were leaking into space when a flap opened.
The spacecraft is on a mission to collect fragments that scientists hope will help unravel the origins of our solar system, but which ran into a hitch after collecting too large a sample.
Fragments from the asteroid’s surface are found in a collector at the end of the probe’s three-meter (10-foot) arm, which slowly escape into space because some rocks prevented the compartment from completely closing.
That arm is the one that made contact with Bennu for a few seconds last Tuesday, at the height of a mission launched from Earth about four years ago.
The spacecraft is thought to have collected about 400 grams (14 ounces) of fragments, far more than the minimum of 60 grams needed, NASA previously said.
Scientists have to put the sample back into a capsule that sits in the center of the probe and the operation has been postponed until Tuesday from the scheduled date of November 2 due to the leak.
“The abundance of material we collected from Bennu allowed us to accelerate our decision to stow,” said Dante Lauretta, project leader.
OSIRIS-REx will return home in September 2023, hopefully with the greatest champion to return from space since the Apollo era.
The stowage operation will take several days, NASA said, because it requires team supervision and input unlike some of OSIRIS-REx’s other operations which run autonomously.
After each step in the process, the spacecraft will send information and images back to Earth so that scientists can make sure everything is running smoothly.
The probe is so far away that it takes 18.5 minutes for its transmissions to reach Earth, and any signal from the control room takes the same amount of time to reach OSIRIS-REx.
The OSIRIS-REx probe goes for early stowage of the asteroid sample
© 2020 AFP
Quote: NASA starts delicate stowage of OSIRIS-REx asteroid samples (2020, October 27) recovered on October 27, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-nasa-delicate-stowing-osiris-rex- asteroid.html
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