NASA is working to recover a 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid sample from the container

NASA scientists successfully returned an asteroid sample to Earth in September, making them the first US space agency to do so.

All they have to do now is figure out how to open the touch-and-go sample acquisition mechanism, or TAGSAM, to retrieve the rest of the sample, according to NASA.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft logged about seven years of travel, surveying and collecting samples from asteroid Bennu before returning to Earth on September 24, 2023.

“Scientists hope to Pino sample NASA wrote on its website that the “OSIRIS-REx” that was dropped in the Utah desert will provide clues about whether asteroids that collided with Earth billions of years ago brought water and other key components of life here.

Although scientists are still working to access the rest of the sample sealed in TAGSAM’s head, they were able to collect 2.48 ounces, or 70.3 grams, of rock and dust from the samplers.

The initial batch has already exceeded NASA’s goal of bringing at least 60 grams to Earth.

Here’s what we know.

How do NASA scientists plan to recover the rest of the sample?

Most of the samples scientists have collected so far have been located on the outside of the OSIRIS-REx head, accessible through the head’s mylar cap. The rest lies within TAGSAM.

A team of scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston attempted to remove the TAGSAM head on multiple occasions, but found that two of the 35 fasteners could not be removed using the current tools the team had permission to use.

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“The TAGSAM head has more than 35 fasteners, but there were only 35 that we planned to remove. The two stuck ones were among the last to be removed. All other fasteners were successfully removed. “We don’t know why these last two are stuck, but we are actively working We will continue to find potential solutions while also continuing to make progress in our sample processing procedures for the 70.3 grams of material already recovered from TAGSAM,” said Francis McCubbin, curator of astronomical materials at the Johnson Space Center.

Some material was successfully collected when the team held the Mylar cap to the head by removing the sample from the inside using tweezers or a scoop, depending on the size of the material extracted.

NASA said scientists will take the next two weeks to remove the remainder of the sample from TAGSAM’s head with new technology, process the collected material, and begin analyzing the bulk sample. October 20.

The TAGSAM head was removed from the active nitrogen flow in the glove box and stored in its transport container, sealed with an O-ring and enclosed in a sealed Teflon bag to ensure the sample was kept safe while the team excreted solutions to access the rest of the sample.

Since all work on the sample including the TAGSAM head was performed in a specialized glove box under a flow of nitrogen to prevent it from being exposed to Earth’s atmosphere, the instruments of any proposed solution must be able to fit inside the glove box and not compromise the scientific integrity of the kit. According to NASA.

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What has NASA discovered so far?

Preliminary studies of the 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid sample show that the basic building blocks of life on Earth can be found in rock, which contains a high percentage of carbon and water, according to the American “space” website. NASA.

“Almost everything we do at NASA seeks to answer questions about who we are and where we come from. NASA missions like OSIRIS-REx will improve our understanding of asteroids that could threaten Earth, while giving us a glimpse into what lies beyond them.” The sample has returned to Earth, But there’s still a lot of science to come — science we’ve never seen before,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson previously said.

The nature of the carbon compounds found may provide insight into how the solar system was formed, how the raw materials for life might have been seeded on Earth, and what precautions should be taken to avoid asteroid collisions.

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