NASA spacecraft sent to collect one Sample Rock and dust coming from an asteroid have created an unexpected problem.
The device keeps the mylar lobe open, creating a gap that allows rocks to be trapped and some of the collected pebbles and dust to escape into space.
“We had a successful sample collection attempt – it was almost very successful. The material escapes,” he says Donte Loretta Principal researcher for the OSIRIS-REx mission at the University of Arizona. “We think we’ll miss a small part, but it’s more than comfortable for me. I was very worried when I saw these pictures coming.”
To prevent further loss, the team is now preparing to quickly stack the sample collection device in its retrieval capsule, which may begin the stoving process as early as Tuesday. The capsule is expected to return to Earth in 2023.
Researchers believe they have collected hundreds of grams of material, but they will not know until the capsule returns to Earth.
They were planning a maneuver to rotate the spacecraft, allowing them to determine exactly how much rock and dust they had received. The thought is, if they can’t collect much, they can touch the asteroid in January and get some more.
But when the collector realized it was too full they abandoned the spacecraft-spinning trick, which left the object open and the object lost.
This is because they want to reduce the movement of the spacecraft until the rock and dust sample in the return capsule is securely closed. “It causes material loss,” Loretta says. “We have enough evidence for a successful sample collection.”
He says nothing like this problem has ever been seen in the simulations of work done by the team on Earth. It now appears that the collection device should have penetrated the asteroid surface more than expected – perhaps to a depth of 48 centimeters or a foot and a half.
“I basically paid the minimum amount of operation required on the spacecraft and started focusing on the model’s initial stock,” says Loretta. “It’s very exciting, very surprising, but overall, great news.”
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