Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s robotic spacecraft Osiris-Rex was able to stash a rock and dust sample grabbed from the asteroid Bennu, after a flap that had wedged open put the mission at risk. This was disclosed on Thursday.

It would be recalled, that Osiris-Rex made a successful touch and go, and the astronauts grabbed a massive amount of samples from asteroid Bennu. But a large part of the samples was spilling out as they backed away from the asteroid.

The second journey for the touch and go mission was successful.

“We are here to announce today that we’ve successfully completed that operation,” said Rich Burns, the mission’s project manager.

The mission of this journey, as reported earlier was to amass samples of the asteroid that scientists hope will enable to decipher the roots of our solar system, but hit a hurdle after it collected a massive sample.

A large part of the asteroid’s surface in a collector at the end of the probe’s three-meter (10-foot) arm had been gradually pouring out into space due to the fact that some rocks staved off the compartment from closing fully.

That arm is what contacted Bennu for a few seconds last Tuesday in the realization of a mission launched from Earth some four years ago.

On Thursday, NASA made the good news announcement that it had been able to handle the robotic arm carrying the leaking samples from the asteroid to a storage capsule near the center of the spacecraft a day earlier, drop off the sample and shut the capsule’s lid.

It was a tricky two-day procedure, needing the team at each step to examine images and data from the prior step.

The search is 200 million miles (320 million kilometers) away, so it takes 18.5 minutes for every of the transmissions made to reach Earth, and any alarm made from the control room needs the same amount of time to reach Osiris-Rex.

“My heart breaks for loss of sample,” said Dante Lauretta, the mission’s chief scientist, but he noted that they had successfully stowed hundreds of grams (several ounces) of fragments, far in excess of their minimum goal.

“Now we can look forward to receiving the sample here on Earth and opening up that capsule,” he said.

Osiris-Rex is ready to make its journey back home to planet Earth in September 2023, hopefully the return would be with the largest sample ever returned from space ever since the Apollo era.


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