NASA says images suggest "success" in asteroid sample collection

Pablo Tucker
October 24, 2020

If Osiris-Rex successfully comes home in September 2023, it will have collected the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era. The sequence begins when the spacecraft is just 82 ft (25 m) above the rocky surface, and clearly shows the sampling arm approach and touchdown on Bennu. Event refers to a Primarily for NASA Possible boon to our understanding of science, space exploration and the solar system.

"The spacecraft's sampling arm - called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) - is visible in the lower part of the frame", NASA wrote on its website. A few seconds after that, the spacecraft thrusters fired, backing it away at a zippy 40 centimeters per second (0.9 mph, basically a shuffle).

Once OSIRIS-REx reached the surface, it used a puff of nitrogen to blow material into the sample container. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January 2021.

Bennu is 332 million kilometres from Earth.

After a four-hour descent, at an altitude of approximately 125 m (410 feet), OSIRIS-REx executed the "Checkpoint" burn, the first of two maneuvers to allow it to precisely target the sample collection site, known as "Nightingale".


Originally, scientists believed that Bennu was a smooth rock and that they'd have no problem collecting a sample. First it breaks down the porous rock below, and after the second fires a bottle of nitrogen gas.

Osiris-Rex As a concept At least since 2004, a team of astronomers first proposed the idea to NASA.

The agency shared footage of the historic mission captured by the SamCam instrument, which is one of the three cameras in the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite.

The head is created to hold and hold the whipped surface material.

Rich Burns, Nasa's project manager on the mission, lauded the the way his team managed to put the probe in just the right place on Bennu - nearly exactly at the centre of the targeted sampling zone.


A spacecraft owned by the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, collected a sample from the asteroid Ryugu in 2019 and is expecting to get the sample back to Earth in December.

The principal investigator's team now has to work out precisely how much material Osiris-Rex might have lifted from the surface of 500m-wide Bennu.

"This was an incredible feat - and today we've advanced both science and engineering and our prospects for future missions to study these mysterious ancient storytellers of the Solar System", said Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

On a more practical side, Bennu will serve as a case study for future space travel.

The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu including cameras, a spectrometer and a laser altimeter. The spacecraft will continue to climb Bannu for the rest of 2020 before embarking on a two-year voyage to return to Earth next year.


For close to two years, Osiris-Rex has been orbiting a large asteroid, named Bennu, more than 100 million miles away from Earth, waiting to spring into action. Scientists say that Bennu is a very primitive meteorite, and with the information to be obtained from this meteorite, it can be understood what happened during the formation of the Earth and the Solar System.

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