NASA confident OSIRIS-REx collected asteroid samples
Oct 22 2020
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. Throughout the series, OSIRIS-REx's aptly named Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) is visible in the frame. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA, collected a sample from the asteroid Ryugu during their Hayabusa2 mission.
The main mission of the spacecraft was the Touch-and-Go sample collection event, or TAG.
The size of a small parking lot, the Nightingale site is one of the few relatively clear spots on this unexpectedly boulder-covered space rock.
"Everything went just exactly ideal", Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator from the University of Arizona, Tucson, said on a NASA live feed from Lockheed's mission support building. The goal is at least 60 grams (two ounces).
The hope was this gas would stir up Bennu's fragmented surface, leading to a considerable number of rocky pieces getting trapped inside the collection chamber.
NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) made contact with the asteroid Bennu on October 20, 2020.
Osiris-Rex eased its robotic arm down to a target zone just eight meters (26 feet) in diameter, then fired pressurised nitrogen to agitate the surface material and catch its sample. Dubbed "Nightingale", the van-sized spacecraft was able to briefly touch down its arm and collect the samples.
The robotic arm will be extended with the sample collector at the end, and then the spacecraft will be propelled into orbit on Saturday. OSIRIS-REx engineers also will attempt to snap photos that could, given the right lighting conditions, show the inside of the head so engineers can look for evidence of sample inside of it.
"There is an incredibly clever physics experiment designed by the team here called mass sampling", said Dr. Loretta during a NASA TV broadcast on Tuesday.
The two mission teams have collaborated closely throughout their missions and will be exchanging a portion of the samples collected from each asteroid.
Next, the spacecraft will extend its arm and TAGSAM and spin around. The person can sense the mass of the ball by the tension in the string.
"Bottom line is that from the analysis that we've gotten from the images so far, is that the sampling event went really well, way better than we could have ever imagined", Lauretta said.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft, is an global sample-return mission led by NASA and joined by science team members from Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy.
If the proper amount of material was collected, the team will stow the TAGSAM head, with material inside, into a sample return capsule. If OSIRIS-REx doesn't have enough of a sample, a second TAG is scheduled for January 12, 2021. And Bennu has now been mapped in greater detail than our own moon or any other celestial body in our solar system.
The spacecraft, known as OSIRIS-REx short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer, was launched from Cape Canaveral on September 8, 2016, atop an Atlas V rocket.