NASA weighed samples of asteroid Bennu: How many OSIRIS-REx managed to collect

It was difficult for NASA to open a container for samples with valuable material from the asteroid Bennu, collected by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft more than three years ago. After scientists got to the space rock inside, they not only got the opportunity to fully begin their analysis, but also weigh the material with an accuracy of a tenth of a gram. According to the space agency, the spacecraft managed to collect 121.6 grams of material, which is twice the planned weight of the mission.

A view of eight trays with samples containing material from the asteroid Bennu. Photo: NASA

Black dust weighing 70.3 grams was found on the inside of the container. After removing the TAGSAM (Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) head, where the main part of the asteroid sample was stored, 51.3 grams of material were found. The total weight is more than twice the 60 grams of material needed to complete the mission’s tasks.

The OSIRIS-REx mission began in September 2016, and reached the asteroid Bennu in December 2018. The asteroid samples were collected in October 2020, and in May 2021 the spacecraft returned to Earth. The sample landed in the Utah Desert in September 2023, but NASA had difficulty opening the round head of the sampler at the end of the hinged arm of the device. Two of the 35 mounts on the TAGSAM head were inaccessible for extraction, which made it difficult to extract the sample. Despite the fact that the amount collected before removing the TAGSAM head was already enough for research, NASA still wanted to get the remaining mass of asteroid debris. Eventually, after two months, the engineers were able to open it on January 10th.

The asteroid samples will be distributed among 230 scientists from around the world, who will be divided into groups. NASA will keep at least 70% of the samples for future research at the Johnson Space Center, hoping to take advantage of advanced technology. Some of the asteroid samples will be on public display at the Smithsonian Institution, the Houston Space Center and the University of Arizona. 

Earlier, we explained why the asteroid Bennu is interesting.

According to NASA

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