NASA mentioned Friday that its robotic spacecraft OSIRIS-REx had succeeded in gathering a big pattern of particles from the Bennu asteroid this week — however a lot that it was leaking.
The group in command of the probe is now working to shortly stow the remaining samples that might finally be delivered again to Earth to offer key scientific insights.
“A considerable fraction of the required collected mass is seen escaping,” mission chief Dante Lauretta mentioned in a telephone briefing with journalists.
OSIRIS-REx is ready to come back residence in September 2023, hopefully with the biggest pattern returned from house for the reason that Apollo period, which is able to assist unravel the origins of our photo voltaic system.
The probe is believed to have collected some 400 grams of fragments, way over the minimal of 60 grams wanted, Lauretta mentioned.
However the lid for the collector on the finish of the probe’s arm the place the fragments are being saved has been barely wedged open by bigger rocks, making a leak, the scientists suspect.
5 to 10 grams have already been noticed across the assortment arm in a cloud remaining roughly within the surrounding space because of the microgravity surroundings which makes fragments behave like fluids.
“My large concern now could be that the particles are escaping as a result of we have been nearly a sufferer of our personal success right here,” Lauretta mentioned.
Because of this, a plan to hold out a mass measurement on Saturday has been cancelled because it may danger scattering additional samples.
The duty is now to scale back as a lot as potential the spacecraft’s actions and put together to stow the fabric in a capsule on the probe as shortly as potential.
Is OSIRIS-REx, launched greater than 4 years in the past, vulnerable to shedding its treasure? The amount of the leak isn’t but exactly identified, however the consultants appeared comparatively assured that might not be the case.
“Bennu continues to shock us with nice science and likewise throwing just a few curveballs,” Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA affiliate administrator, mentioned in a press release.
“And though we might have to maneuver extra shortly to stow the pattern, it is not a foul downside to have. We’re so excited to see what seems to be an ample pattern that may encourage science for many years past this historic second.”
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