NASA’s mission was successfully accomplished: the Osiris-Rex probe, which managed to get close to the asteroid Bennu for a matter of seconds, collected billions of years old rock samples that “will inspire science for decades”, as confirmed by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA and head of the direction of the scientific mission
The Osiris-Rex mission was a success that surprised NASA experts, after the probe was able to “caress” the asteroid Bennu and collect a large amount of samples, even billions of years old, to bring them back to Earth within 2023. The confirmation, also thanks to the images released by the American Space Agency two days after the landing on the asteroid, which took place shortly after midnight on October 21, came from the words of Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA and head the direction of the scientific mission.
“An abundant sample that will inspire science for decades”
NASA, mission accomplished: Osiris-Rex spacecraft touched the asteroid Bennu
The operation, which took place 330 million kilometers from our planet, was perfectly successful, they explained by NASA. Some material captured by the probe has slipped out of the sample collector and now mission officers are working to secure it in the capsule that will have to bring it back to Earth, but the success has been greeted with happiness. “Bennu continues to surprise us,” Zurbuchen said. “We are excited to see what appears to be an abundant sample that will inspire science for decades.” The collection of the samples took place in optimal conditions, underlined the experts, who analyzing in detail the images produced during the operations, found that the head of the Tagsam sample collector (Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) was aligned to Bennu’s surface when it came into contact with the asteroid material.
Some details related to the operations
The images, again explained by NASA, showed that the probe’s collector contains more than 60 grams of dust and rock fragments. This despite, as mentioned, some particles taken are coming out of the sampler, perhaps through some small cracks in a flap of the lid, probably linked to the presence of some pebbles that prevented it from closing. Among other things, in an attempt to keep the collected material in optimal conditions, the personnel of the Osiris-Rex mission have for now renounced weighing the sample, with the aim of minimizing the acceleration of the probe, dedicating themselves to operations of stowage of the sample in the Src (Sample Return Capsule), where the material will be protected during the return journey to Earth. “My job is to safely return a sample of Bennu,” explained Dante Lauretta, scientific director of the mission, at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “The loss of mass worries me, so I strongly encourage the team to put this precious sample away as quickly as possible,” he said, recounting the development of the mission.