April 24, 2024


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NASA's sample of asteroid debris doubles the expected amount

NASA's sample of asteroid debris doubles the expected amount

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has landed further than NASA expected. It received twice the sample it needed to consider its mission to asteroid Bennu a success

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the First asteroid samples The material NASA obtained from deep space contains twice the amount of material that scientists expected to obtain, according to a press release.

“The OSIRIS-REx sample is the largest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever delivered to Earth, and will help scientists investigate the origins of life on our planet for generations to come,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. NASA seeks to answer questions about who we are and where we come from.”

Delivery was made last fall, but according to NASAIt took longer than expected to obtain all samples. Disassembly of the touch-and-go sample acquisition mechanism, TAGSAM, the system used to collect samples, was temporarily halted due to two stuck fasteners.

After developing new tools, scientists at the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Division, ARES, were able to open the capsule and collect the rest of the sample.

NASA said it will store 70% of the sample at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for further research by scientists from around the world.

“Later this spring, the processing team will release a catalog of OSIRIS-REx samples, which will make the asteroid sample available for order by the global scientific community,” NASA said in a statement. press release.

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What happened according to NASA

  • In September 2023, NASA received extraterrestrial access from its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during a flyby of Earth. A capsule containing asteroid samples collected in 2020 was sent.
  • The capsule was launched 63,000 miles away and landed four hours later on a remote stretch of military land. Associated Press News reported Inside the capsule was half a cup of 4.5 billion-year-old samples from the asteroid Bennu.
  • Osiris was already on its way to collect samples from another asteroid, the AP reported, when the Bennu sample was strapped into a helicopter and flown to a temporary clean room at the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range before being sent to NASA's Johnson Space Center.
  • By October, NASA had collected 2.48 ounces, 70.3 grams, of rocks and dust from the outside of the case that contained TAGSAM, but scientists paused their research because of stubborn fasteners that couldn't be opened. The team needed the spacecraft to collect about 2.12 ounces and considered the mission a success despite the delay.
  • By January 2024, they had developed TAGSAM fastener removal tools safely.
  • In February, NASA announced that it had fully opened TAGSAM and obtained the rest of the sample. A total of 4.29 ounces were collected from the asteroid.

What is OSIRIS-REx and what is its mission?

OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is a small rover with solar panels that power it.

On its visit to Bennu, it collected its samples from the asteroid's surface, and sealed them in a 3-foot-wide container called a Sample return capsule. The capsule was equipped with a heat shield to protect it when delivering its sample to Earth.

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The cost of the mission, excluding launch, was $800 million.

“NASA missions like OSIRIS-REx will improve our understanding of asteroids that could threaten Earth, while giving us a glimpse into what lies beyond them,” Nelson said. “The sample has returned to Earth, but there is still a lot of science to come — science we have never seen before.”

Julia is a feature reporter for USA TODAY. She has covered various topics, from local businesses and government in her hometown, Miami, to technology and pop culture. You can follow it X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram And Tik Tok: @juliamariegz.

Contributing: George Petras, Ramon Padilla and Janet Lohrke, USA TODAY.