OSIRIS-REx Sampling

On October 23, the mission team members said that the OSIRIS-REx caught a lot of dirt from the near-Earth surface. This made the spacecraft’s sampling mechanism not to go as was expected. Some of the gathered material got lost into space. The people handling OSIRIS-REx have plans to store the gathered material to ensure minimal material loss. This started on October 27, as the NASA officials had said.

Zurbuchem Thomas, NASA’s administrator for science, said that Bennu has continuously amazed many with great science. He added that a quick move should be taken to stow the sample. The large sample will serve as a science inspiration for many decades to come. The OSIRIS-REx mission was launched in 2016 September, and its total cost is $800 million. It reached Bennu in 2018 December. The main objective of this project is to provide 60 grams of new Bennu material to Earth. The return capsule is expected to touch the Utah desert in 2023, September 24. This is when the Bennu material will reach Earth.

On that day, clear indications show that the probe gathered more material, which leads to a long touch between the Bennu and OSIRIS-REx. The head of the OSIRIS-REx went deep into the surface up to 48 centimeters. This was revealed by Lauretta Dante, the University of Arizona principal mission investigator, during the news conference. The pictures captured using the satellite showed that the head of OSIRIS-REx was jammed with the material. They also showed a group of particles moving from the head via small gaps.

Dante and his colleagues weighed the sample on October 24 and undertaking that span OSIRIS-REx around. The mission team members will now stow the sample since more asteroid particles were liberated during weighing.  Dante said the main challenge they are likely to face is that the sample head is full of material. Adding the primary intention, they have is stowing the sample securely while minimizing more loss.

“It is not easy to say the amount of materials that was lost, though the total estimate is 10 grams,” Dante said. If these estimates are right, then the OSIRIS-REx mission is in good form going onwards.

Stowing of the sample is not something that can be done immediately. Some things need to be taken into account, such as leaking asteroid particles. The team also needs to ensure that they have ample time on NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) and put radio dishes across the globe for communicating with the far-flung satellite. Sample stowage is a time-consuming process with many happenings between the ground and OSIRIS-REx, Dante explained.

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