NASA examines asteroid samples leaked due to jammed door

A two-frame GIF showing the sampling head crushing porous rocks on the surface

But now, after analyzing new images, they came to know that there were so many large particles in the regolith, and it has left the flap open. Particles are diffusing out into space. Currently, the exact details of the sample are yet to be communicated to the researchers, however they hope that around 60g of material was scooped up.

At a media briefing called by NASA on short notice October 23, three days after the spacecraft touched down on the asteroid, officials said that images taken of the head of the sampling device, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), showed material leaking out of the container from a gap in a Mylar diaphragm that is supposed to seal the bottom of the head.

However, the researchers assume that the sample material is abundant, up to hundreds of grams. This flaky material floats in what resembles a cloud of particles around the head. The team thinks they already lost up to 10 grams of material when TAGSAM was moved into position for the photo shoot.

Requirements for the Orissa-Rex - NASA's first asteroid specimen return mission, totaling more than $ 800m - had at least 2 ounces (60 g) of specimens to return.

Scientists noticed what had happened after images of the spacecraft's collection head beamed back to ground control. And that's just what he sees them from the camera's perspective. But the team also discovered that material is escaping through a flap that is wedged slightly open by what is thought to be some larger rocks picked up in the collection process.

As a result, a plan to carry out a mass measurement today has been cancelled since it could risk scattering further samples.

But the door was opened by a rock, with "relevant" pictures of the sample leak, "we are nearly sacrificing our own success here", he said.

Nevertheless, the team remains optimistic about the samples they have.

Tuesday marked the first time NASA ever collected material from an asteroid.

"Preliminary data show the sampling head touched Bennu's surface for approximately 6 seconds, after which the spacecraft performed a back-away burn". At the point when the pressurized nitrogen gas bottle terminated, meant to lift up material from the surface, the head sank an extra 24 to 48 centimeters into the surface material.

But Lauretta said this week's accomplishment, however momentous, was merely a checkpoint. While the group isn't certain of the power of the stones holding it open, it must be solid and at as far as possible for what could pass into the assortment head, he said.

Earlier this week, the Osiris-Rex probe collected more material from the surface of the asteroid Bennu than expected. Based on available imagery, the team suspects there is plentiful sample inside the head, and is on a path to stow the sample as quickly as possible.

"Bennu keeps on astounding us with extraordinary science and furthermore tossing a couple curves", said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's partner manager for the science mission directorate at the office's central command in Washington.

"I basically directed the team to put as minimal activity on the spacecraft as necessary and start focusing on the early stow of sample", says Lauretta.