After releasing the jammed lid, NASA at last opens the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample container

After releasing the jammed lid, NASA at last opens the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample container

It’s now open at last. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx project has reached a major milestone by successfully accessing the wealth of asteroid material that the probe gathered over its billion-mile trip, satisfying months of anticipation.

According to a NASA release, on January 10, a team of NASA technicians successfully took out two recalcitrant fasteners that had been storing the priceless cargo, giving scientists unparalleled access to the asteroid material.

As the first American mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft achieved history in September 2023. Within a return capsule, the sample was safely kept but out of reach because of two screws that were stuck and could not be pried out with the team’s meager arsenal of authorized equipment.

The majority of the asteroid sample material was still locked inside the capsule, even though 70.3 grams (2.48 ounces) of material had previously been retrieved from the outside of the sampler head using a device called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM).

The majority of the asteroid material is now accessible, according to a statement from NASA, since two of the 35 fasteners on TAGSAM that were preventing removal with the current instruments authorized for use inside the OSIRIS-REx sample container were eventually released.

After the fasteners are eventually taken out, the TAGSAM head will be disassembled by the astromaterials curation team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in order to retrieve the remaining asteroid material. This substance consists of dust and boulders up to 0.4 inches (one centimeter) in size. In the upcoming weeks, the sample’s final mass will be ascertained.

Later this year, NASA intends to make available a catalog of all the Bennu samples, allowing researchers and organizations from around the globe to submit requests for analysis or exhibition and paving the way for further scientific investigation.

The asteroid Bennu, which is thought to be a primitive space rock from the early solar system, may hold important secrets about the creation and development of other celestial bodies. Analyzing samples taken from its surface may provide crucial hints about our cosmic neighbors, adding to our knowledge of the secrets of the universe.

Meanwhile, the spacecraft that took the sample collection, OSIRIS-REx, has undergone a name and mission change. The probe, now known as OSIRIS-APEX, is traveling for five years to observe the asteroid Apophis, which is named after the chaos-loving god of ancient Egypt, as it gets closer to Earth.

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