Osiris-Rex has been in orbit around Bennu since the end of 2018, which unexpectedly gave NASA plenty of time to find the right landing zone on the cliff. It was well chosen. Following the recent successful Touch and Go operation, NASA has now reported a significant sample of the asteroid. The sample return of the spacecraft is locked in the container.
Earlier this month, Osiris-Rex went down and tapped on the surface, or it should have been a tap. NASA now says that the sample arm may have been pierced through 19 inches (48 cm) of loose soil before the nitrogen explosion. 60 g of that puff of air was blown into the sample container. Instead, it yielded a lot more.
Earlier this week there was a short but frightening period when NASA confirmed that the lid of the sample container had been opened and large stones had been thrown. As a result, The asteroids were falling out Whenever the spacecraft moves. NASA decided to abandon the planned sample measurement over the weekend because it would take away more sample materials. It also canceled plans to run a second sample run at the backup Bennu site. Instead, NASA worked to ensure its attractive distance.
The latest images from OSIRIS-REx show securely locked inside the sample capsule. This module will gradually fall into the Earth’s atmosphere, and the heat shield will protect it from atmospheric regeneration. We do not know exactly how many samples were seized from Osiris-Rex Bennu, but we do know that this is much higher than the 60g minimum. NASA estimates that Osiris-Rex may contain one kilogram (1,000 grams or 2.2 pounds) of primitive asteroid soil in the return canister. It’s very large – payloads of past sample return missions can be well calculated in milligrams. The recent Hayabusa 2 mission is expected to land 100 milligrams (one-tenth of a gram) of asteroid regolith in the coming months.
Bringing most of Bennu back to Earth would be a watershed moment for science. Most of the asteroid samples on Earth were extinguished by the atmosphere and destroyed by the impact. Bennu has remained unchanged since the formation of the universe, and we have enough teams to do a lot of tests that will teach us a lot about the early solar system.
Bennu and Osiris-Rex are currently millions of miles apart, so the investigation will take time to return home. NASA plans to destroy its orbit in March 2021 near Bennu and Earth. The sample return capsule should return to Earth in September 2023.
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