Asteroid samples escaping from NASA spacecraft: ‘Time is the essence’

This image, taken from a video released by NASA, shows the Osiris-Rex spacecraft touching the surface of the asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. (Via NASA AP)

Cape Canaveral, fl. (AP) – The NASA spacecraft has been full of asteroids since its capture this week, exposing it and sending precious particles into space, scientists say.

Scientists announced the news three days after NASA’s first attempt at such a mission, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft, touched down on the asteroid Benu.

The mission, which took place 200 million miles away on Tuesday, collected more material than expected to return to Earth, said Dante Loretta, the mission’s chief scientist at the University of Arizona – hundreds of grams. The sample container at the end of the robot arm penetrated very deep into the asteroid and with such force pulled the rocks and split the edge of the lid.

Scientists estimate that the sample was pressed 19 inches (48 cm) into rough, broken, black terrain.

“We are the victims of our own success here,” Loretta told a hastily arranged news conference.

Loretta said flight controllers can do nothing to remove obstacles and prevent further parts of Benu from escaping, unless samples are delivered to the return capsule as soon as possible.

So, on Tuesday itself, the flight team was scrambling to drop the sample container into the capsule – sooner than originally planned – for the long journey home.

“Time is of the essence,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science missions.

This is NASA’s first sample asteroid return-mission. Bennu was chosen because he believes that carbon-rich materials will hold the protective construction blocks of our solar system. Obtaining fragments from this cosmic time capsule will help scientists better understand how the planets formed billions of years ago and how life originated on Earth.

Scientists were stunned to see images coming from Osiris-Rex after successfully touching Benu two days ago.

A cloud of asteroid particles can be seen orbiting the spacecraft as it retreats from Bennu. The situation stabilized once the robot arm was locked. But it is not yet known exactly how much has been lost.

Bringing back at least 2 cases (60 grams) required an additional mission of $ 800 million.

Regardless of what is on the ship, Osiris-Rex will be out of orbit around the asteroid in March – the first possible departure considering the relative positions of Earth and Benu. Seven years after leaving the spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, samples will not be returned until 2023.

Osiris-Rex moves away from Bennu and will not orbit again, as it is waiting for the scheduled departure.

Because of the rapid turn of events, scientists do not know how long the sample capsule will last until it returns to Earth. They had originally planned to orbit the spacecraft to measure the contents, but canceled that strategy because of the possibility of scattering more debris.

“I think we’ll have to wait until we get home to find out exactly how much we have,” Loretta told reporters. “As you can imagine, it’s hard. നല്ല But the good news is that we see a lot of things. ”

Meanwhile, Japan is waiting for the second batch of samples taken from another asteroid, in December.

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