“We are the victim of our own success here,” Loretta told an urgently organized press conference.
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.
So, early Tuesday, the flight crew was scrambling to place the sample container in the capsule – much sooner than originally planned – a long journey home.
“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.
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.
The requirement for additional work of US $ 800 million is to bring back at least 60 grams.
Regardless of what is on board, Osiris-Rex will exit near the asteroid in March – an early departure that will give Earth and Penn relative locations. Seven years after the spacecraft departed from Cape Canaveral, the models will not return until 2023.
Osiris-Rex will keep moving away from the pen and will not circle it again as it waits for the scheduled departure.
Because of the sudden turn of events, scientists do not know how long the sample capsule will hold until it returns to Earth. They initially planned to rotate the spacecraft to measure the contents, but that maneuver was canceled because it could dump even more debris.
“I think we’ll have to wait until we get home to find out how much we have,” Loretta told reporters. “As you can imagine, it’s hard. … But the good news is, we see a lot of things.”
Meanwhile, Japan is taking its second batch of samples from another asteroid, in December.