NASA collected twice the anticipated amount of asteroid Bennu sample during the OSIRIS-REx mission

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to the asteroid Bennu has gathered over double the amount of samples needed to fulfil its objectives, according to the space agency.

NASA announced on Thursday that its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully returned over 4.29 ounces of material from Asteroid Bennu when the sample capsule arrived on Earth in September of last year.

This quantity exceeds more than double the 60 grams of material required to meet the mission’s scientific objectives. Even before the TAGSAM (Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) head was fully opened, the sample surpassed the minimum amount as processors at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston collected small rocks and dust from inside the large canister containing the TAGSAM head.

Although the sample container landed on Earth in September, the curation process experienced a pause in October due to two fasteners on the container becoming stuck, hindering its opening. Curation engineers had to develop, produce, and test new tools to remove the fasteners in January, enabling the continuation of the TAGSAM head disassembly.

This mosaic of Bennu was crafted from observations captured by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during its proximity to the asteroid over two years. (Image credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

The remaining sample from asteroid Bennu was unveiled and carefully transferred into wedge-shaped containers. The initial measure of additional particles collected was approximately 70.3 grams. Combined with the 51.2 grams obtained during the pour, the total sample now amounts to 121.6 grams. At least 70% of this sample will be preserved to facilitate further research by scientists worldwide, even in the future.

Preliminary analysis of the material trapped under the arm used for sample collection revealed evidence of high carbon content and water on Bennu, indicating the presence of crucial building blocks of life on this 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid.

The Bennu material will be stored in containers and distributed to scientists for in-depth study. Over 200 scientists globally will examine the properties of this extraterrestrial dust, contributing to our understanding of celestial bodies beyond Earth.

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