The update comes three days after the successful and short landing on the asteroid Bennu, which is 330 million kilometers away. It was NASA’s first attempt to obtain rock and dust samples from an asteroid.
Chief researcher Dante Lauretta says the ship Osiris-Rex has collected hundreds of grams of samples – far more than expected. The collection box at the end of the vessel’s robot arm, on the other hand, dug so deeply into the surface, and so hard, that stones stuck and prevented the box lid from closing.
The researchers estimate that the collection box was pushed about 48 centimeters into the ground on Bennu’s rough, rocky, black surface.
– We are almost victims of our own success, says Lauretta.
He adds that there is nothing they can do to close the box properly, but that work is being done to place the samples as quickly as possible in the capsule that will return to earth.
The room capsule with the samples on board is now being prepared for the trip back home on Tuesday – well ahead of schedule. Due to the broken collection box and the fear that more samples will be lost, the researchers will not be able to weigh the samples before placing them in the capsule.
Must wait until 2023
The goal was to collect at least 60 grams, and the samples collected may be back on Earth in 2023, at least.
– I think we have to wait for the tests before we know for sure how much we have. It is difficult, but the good news is that we have a lot of material, Lauretta told a news conference on Friday.
Japan was able to retrieve samples from an asteroid twice, and samples from the last sampling in December are returning.
Carbon-rich Bennu probably contains the original building blocks of the solar system, which was created 4.5 billion years ago, and can help scientists better understand the planet and the life that originated here.