NASA announced this Thursday that its OSIRIS-REx space probe has finally achieved store samples in an airtight capsule stone and dust collected from the asteroid Bennu last week, after a compartment closure failure collection would jeopardize the mission.
“We have completed this operation successfully,” reported project manager Rich Burns. As explained by NASA, the mission team passed two days working around the clock to carry out the stowage procedure.
The space agency noted that in order for the spacecraft to perform each step of the storage sequence, the team had to evaluate the images and telemetry from each previous step and confirm that everything was going well. Since OSIRIS-REx is currently more than 320 million kilometers from Earth, this required the team to also work with a time delay greater than 18.5 minutes.
I’ve officially closed the Sample Return Capsule! The sample of Bennu is sealed inside and ready for our voyage back to Earth. The SRC will touch down in the Utah desert on Sep. 24, 2023. Thanks, everyone, for being a part of my journey #ToBennuAndBackpic.twitter.com/z75ITNiGBf
— NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) October 29, 2020
NASA already announced last Friday that the samples collected by OSIRIS-REx on the surface of the asteroid Bennu are “more than enough “. The probe collected the samples last Tuesday, but it was awaiting confirmation if the 60 grams that had been marked as a minimum target.
In a statement, NASA confirmed that it was able to verify through images sent by the probe that the sample collector I was full and that what is collected is “more than enough”.
The agency also detailed that they were slowly losing some particles because larger pieces had not allowed the collector to seal completely.
For this reason, NASA announced that it was canceling the test it had to do over the weekend to measure the size of the sample, and that it would then proceed to store it directly so that no more was lost.
“Although we may have to move faster to store the sample, it is not a serious problem. We are very excited to see what appears to be an abundant sample, “said then the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen.
“A window to the early Solar System”
OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu on December 3, 2018 and began to orbit the asteroid on December 31, after a journey of more than four years, as it was released in September 2016 from Cape Canaveral.
Last Tuesday the probe contacted the asteroid and spewed compressed nitrogen on its surface to lift dust and gravel to collect it for the sample.
NASA then noted that the asteroid Bennu “offers scientists a window into the early solar system, as it first began to take shape billions of years ago and sheds ingredients that could have been helped sow life on Earth. “
If the mission is confirmed successful, in March 2021 – the next time Bennu aligns itself with Earth properly – OSIRIS-REx will return. His parachute landing is scheduled for the September 24, 2024 in the desert of Utah (USA).