NASA confirms OSIRIS-REx has secured its asteroid sample

Nasa takes better care of asteroid stones

Osiris-Rex collected so much material from Bennu's rough surface on October 20 that rocks got wedged in the rim of the container and jammed it open. The operation hit a snag after it picked up too big of a sample. That was leading the dust to leak back into space. On Thursday, NASA confirmed that the spacecraft had successfully done so. For planetary scientists, this asteroid material is very valuable. It aims to obtain between 60 grams and 2 kilograms of sample material.

How much of the sample has been lost can not yet be precisely measured, said Lauretta.

The U.S. space agency said Thursday its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft safely stored samples collected from asteroid Bennu inside a capsule for delivery to Earth in September 2023. Some of these particles were slowly escaping. On Friday, NASA released footage of the spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, approaching and briefly touching down on the rubbly Bennu. To secure the capsule, the spacecraft closed the lid and then fastened two internal latches.

They will not know the exact cosmic distance from the asteroid Bennu, more than 200 million miles (322 million km) away, until the capsule parachutes into the Utah desert in 2023.

Nasa takes better care of asteroid stones
Asteroid samples tucked into capsule for return to Earth

NASA plans to exchange samples with Japan's space agency, which is expecting material from the asteroid Ryugu collected by its Hayabusa2 explorer, now en route back to the vicinity of Earth in December. The mission team sent commands to the spacecraft on Wednesday, instructing it to close the Sample Return Capsule (SRC). "This is like sampling the original ingredients for making planets". The space probe is scheduled to begin its return journey in March. NASA's team believes that Asteroid Bennu existed since the early days of the universe, hurling itself around the region before turning into space rubble. NASA will also preserve some of the regolith for future study.

"We've still got a lot of work to do" to get the samples back safely, said lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.

"Bennu is one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, with a non-negligible chance of impacting the Earth at some point in the 22nd century", Lauretta said last month. The data NASA is gathering from Bennu could help inform future asteroid-mining attempts. Japan has done it twice at other space rocks and expects its latest batch to arrive in December. "There's great discoveries to be made, and we it looks like we have abundant sample, so the more the merrier".

"My goal is to get the sample out to as many qualified laboratories around the planet as possible as quickly as possible", Lauretta said.

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