Possible small satellite: NASA’s Osiris-Rex is more successful than the space agency expected. At the end of the left Rex we were 200 million miles away and his lead was used to stretch the nitrogen gas into the surface and into the space rocks on the surface of the asteroid creating a vacuum — a proud and dynamite.
But for Dante Loretta, principal investigator and planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, this is rarely the case in the halls of the Johnson Space Center: very successful. “This is an amazing mission for us. We could not do a better collection experiment: it was successful, we collected hundreds of grams of samples, but the biggest concern is that the particles escape.”
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Rex used a touch and go sample acquisition mechanism or a system called tagsum. The device was essentially a robotic arm and a vacuum that resembled a giant circular shower head. The three gas containers loaded into the tagsam provide three opportunities to collect at least 60 grams (2 zons) of the asteroid.
Problem: The collection capsule exceeded the minimum requirements on the first attempt and could not close the collection head. In fact, Loretta’s team believes they have seized at least 400 grams of material.
However, NASA did its best: solve the problems. Since the flap could not be closed, the team wanted to reduce the amount of sample lost in space, so they focused on closing the sample head as quickly as possible.
Solution: NASA’s team carefully transferred the sample head to a storage container with an open flap and placed it safely inside. Samples could be secured to two locking systems. Pull the arm evenly over the head to make sure it is set. As President Trump focuses on his return to the moon and Mars, NASA sees this mission as inevitable, which will help explain the origin of our solar system.
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Asteroids may contain carbon and other organic compounds, including building blocks of life not found in meteorites. To get clues as to how life on Earth began billions of years ago, scientists have to go somewhere where there is no life yet, and Bennu is the perfect candidate.
One of the reasons Bennu was chosen is because scientists believe it was once part of a much larger space rock. The theory is that at the beginning of the history of our solar system, two asteroids collided and exploded. Similarly, the 4.5 billion year old asteroid is a perfectly preserved cosmic time capsule.
OSIRUS-REx is now entering the final stages of a 16-year mission in construction. NASA began planning the mission in 2004. In 2016, Rex left home and moved to Bennu. The satellite reached Benu in 2018 and began its orbit, orbiting the asteroid with laser beams to measure the surface and spending about two years.
Osiris-Rex will remain in orbit around Bennu until March before beginning its two-and-a-half-year return journey to Earth. Once it arrives, the sample collection canister will detach from the spacecraft and parachute down and land in the Utah desert in September 2023.
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The only way to land safely on Earth is to travel 200 million miles and avoid space collisions and cosmic radiation. But for NASA, it’s just another day in the office.
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