The probe would have collected about 400 grams of fragments, much more than the minimum of 60 grams initially sought.
NASA announced on Friday the 23rd that its Osiris-Rex spacecraft managed to collect a large amount of particles from the asteroid Bennu after this week’s historic operation, but that there were so many that the collection compartment was unable to close.
“A substantial fraction of the collected mass is escaping,” acknowledged the head of the mission, Dante Lauretta, during a press conference.
The probe would have collected about 400 grams of fragments, much more than the minimum of 60 grams initially sought, according to the scientist.
But between 5 and 10 grams have already been observed around the collecting arm in a cloud more or less close due to the microgravity environment that makes the fragments behave like fluids.
“My biggest concern is that the particles are escaping, we are victims of our success,” said Dante Lauretta.
As a result, the mass measurement operation, initially scheduled for Saturday, was canceled due to the risk of further dispersing the samples.
The urgency now is to minimize the activities of the apparatus and to prepare samples as soon as possible to be stored in a container in the probe.
At this point, the fragments are in a compartment at the end of the device’s collecting arm, whose closing mechanism is blocked by relatively large particles.
Could Osiris-Rex lose all his treasure?
“We think we are losing a small fraction of the materials, but it is more than I would like, I have been very worried since I saw the images,” replied Lauretta. “The most prudent thing is to store it as carefully as possible to minimize any future losses,” he added.