A NASA spacecraft is filled with so much asteroid debris that it is open and precious particles are drifting into space.
The Osiris-Rex spacecraft briefly touched down on the asteroid Bennu this week, NASA’s first attempt at such a mission.
The mission’s leading scientist, Dante Loretta, collected more material than expected – hundreds of grams – to carry back to Earth. However, the sample container at the end of the robot arm penetrated very deep into the asteroid and with such force, the rocks were absorbed and wrapped around the edge of the lid.
“We are the victim of our own success here,” Loretta told an urgently organized press conference.
Scientists were stunned – and then stunned – by the successful touchdown on the penniless two days ago from Osiris-Rex on Thursday.
An asteroid particle is seen orbiting the spacecraft as it retreats from the pen. Once the robot’s hand was locked, the situation seemed stable, according to Loretta. But could not know exactly how much was already lost
Loretta said air traffic controllers can do nothing to clear obstacles and prevent more bits of pennies from escaping, except that the samples will soon get in their return capsule.
“Time is of the essence,” said Thomas Surbuchen, head of NASA’s scientific missions.
This is NASA’s first asteroid model-return mission. Pennu was chosen because its carbon-rich material is believed to hold the protected building blocks of our solar system. Obtaining fragments from this cosmic time capsule will help scientists better understand how the planets formed billions of years ago and how life formed on Earth.
Osiris-Rex will depart from near the asteroid in March – an early departure that will give the Earth and Penn related locations. Seven years after the spacecraft departed from Cape Canaveral, the models will not return until 2023.