Two days after touching down on asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission staff obtained on Thursday, Oct. 22, pictures that affirm the spacecraft has collected greater than sufficient materials to satisfy one in all its predominant mission necessities — buying at the very least 2 ounces (60 grams) of the asteroid’s floor materials.
The spacecraft captured pictures of the pattern collector head because it moved by way of a number of completely different positions. In reviewing these pictures, the OSIRIS-REx staff seen each that the top seemed to be stuffed with asteroid particles, and that a few of these particles seemed to be escaping slowly from the pattern collector, known as the Contact-And-Go Pattern Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) head. They believe bits of fabric are passing by way of small gaps the place a mylar flap — the collector’s “lid” — is barely wedged open by bigger rocks.
“Bennu continues to shock us with nice science and in addition throwing a couple of curveballs,” mentioned Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s affiliate administrator for science on the company’s headquarters in Washington. “And though we might have to maneuver extra shortly to stow the pattern, it isn’t a nasty drawback to have. We’re so excited to see what seems to be an considerable pattern that may encourage science for many years past this historic second.”
The staff believes it has collected a enough pattern and is on a path to stow the pattern as shortly as doable. They got here to this conclusion after evaluating pictures of the empty collector head with Oct. 22 pictures of the TAGSAM head after the pattern assortment occasion.
The photographs additionally present that any motion to the spacecraft and the TAGSAM instrument might result in additional pattern loss. To protect the remaining materials, the mission staff determined to forego the Pattern Mass Measurement exercise initially scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24, and canceled a braking burn scheduled for Friday to attenuate any acceleration to the spacecraft.
From right here, the OSIRIS-Rex staff will give attention to stowing the pattern within the Pattern Return Capsule (SRC), the place any free materials will probably be saved protected through the spacecraft’s journey again to Earth.
“We’re working to maintain up with our personal success right here, and my job is to soundly return as massive a pattern of Bennu as doable,” mentioned Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator on the College of Arizona in Tucson, who leads the science staff and the mission’s science statement planning and knowledge processing. “The lack of mass is of concern to me, so I am strongly encouraging the staff to stow this valuable pattern as shortly as doable.”
The TAGSAM head carried out the sampling occasion in optimum circumstances. Newly obtainable analyses present that the collector head was flush with Bennu’s floor when it made contact and when the nitrogen gasoline bottle was fired to stir floor materials. It additionally penetrated a number of centimeters into the asteroid’s floor materials. All knowledge up to now counsel that the collector head is holding rather more than 2 ounces of regolith.
OSIRIS-REx stays in good well being, and the mission staff is finalizing a timeline for pattern storage. An replace will probably be offered as soon as a call is made on the pattern storage timing and procedures.
NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Heart in Greenbelt, Maryland, supplies total mission administration, techniques engineering and the protection and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Lockheed Martin Area in Denver constructed the spacecraft and is offering flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace of Tempe, Arizona, are answerable for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Heart in Huntsville, Alabama, for the company’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For extra data, see: https://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex