This image taken on Oct. 27 shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully placing its sampling head into the Sample Return Capsule (SRC). The sequence begins when the collector head rotates over the SRC under the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) lever and moves it into the correct locking position. At the end of the sequence, the manifold head is attached to the SRC catch ring. It can also be seen that some particles escape from the capsule. Image: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin For the first time in the agency’s history, NASA is bringing home a sample of an asteroid. A nearly eight-ounce sample from the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu is expected to land in the desert of the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) on Sunday, September 24.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft was launched back in 2016. on September 15, and sampled from Bennu on 2020. October 20
In the past couple of years, he has started to return to Earth. September 17 After a final trajectory maneuver, OSIRIS-REx is almost ready to launch its precious payload.
After the sample is released, the spacecraft will correct its course and be renamed OSIRIS-APEX as it flies off to observe another asteroid: 99942 Apophis.
Speaking to Spaceflight Now on the anniversary of the mission’s launch, OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta said he and his team are bursting with excitement.
“We are looking forward to. The culmination of a seven-year adventure to asteroid Bennu and back is about to happen,” said Lauretta. “As amazing as the science we’ve done on Bennu has been, this mission is about analyzing that returning sample.
Lauretta, who is also a professor of planetary science and cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, is collaborating with a team of more than 200 scientists worldwide who will use more than 60 different analytical techniques to study the pristine specimen. .
Lauretta said they were able to capture and retain about 250 grams, or about an eight-ounce cup worth, of asteroid chunks when the 2020 flyby. came into contact with an asteroid in the fall.
The main tool for capturing the sample was the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) developed by Lockheed Martin.
“We probably had a lot more because we lost the material after sampling, sort of a casualty of our success.” We really filled the sampler to capacity,” said Lauretta. “I liken it to getting a bucket of water and filling it up to the brim and then trying to move it. There will be many things around you. We were in such a situation.”
Nevertheless, Lauretta noted that the captured 250 grams is more than four times what they promised to provide with this sample collection.
During a touch-and-go maneuver (TAG), the sampling head reached toward Bennu, and the spacecraft’s momentum pressed it against the asteroid’s surface for about five seconds, just enough to get a sample. Upon contact, the nitrogen gas will blow to the surface to create dust and fine pebbles that will then be captured by the TAGSAM head. Photo: NASA The portion of Bennu being returned to Earth is only the third such sample return, with Japan leading the first two. They took a sample from asteroid 25143 Itokawa in 2010. and from 162173 Ryugu 2020
Those missions were named Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 means “peregrine falcon” in Japanese.
Bennu is classified by scientists as a carbonaceous or “C-type” asteroid composed of clay and silicate rocks and high in carbon. They are also the most common type of asteroid in the Solar System.
Dr. Beau Bierhaus, TAGSAM’s lead scientist at Lockheed Martin, told Spaceflight Now on Monday that samples of pristine asteroids like Bennu are being collected and observation missions such as Lucy in 2021 launched to study the Trojan asteroids are important tools for better understanding the origin of life on Earth.
“These missions are incredibly profound because they tell us about the complexity of the solar system, but they also tell us how the more we learn about other planets, the more we learn about Earth and our place on Earth.” Bierhaus said.
How will the sample return work? Sunday morning at 2 o’clock mountain summertime, various teams in Utah will conduct a final Go/No-Go survey to determine if they are ready to release the capsule with the asteroid sample inside.
In what leaders describe as an “unlikely” default scenario, there would be another chance to try again in a few years.
“We have the ability to return this return capsule in 2025. in September,” Sandy Freund, Lockheed Martin’s OSIRIS-Rex program manager, told Spaceflight Now on Monday. “So a two-year delay, which is not ideal, but is an option if we need it.”
If the commands are correct, a command will be sent to the spacecraft, the capsule will be launched at 4:42 a.m. MDT. Then there is four hours between exit and entry.
The drogue parachute will then deploy, followed by the main parachute, which will slow the capsule down to about 10 miles per hour.
Until the capsule reaches the ground, UTTR sensors will monitor the payload along with NASA weather.
Once on the ground, four helicopters will be used to begin ground recovery. The first helicopter will have people from the range to make it safe to approach the capsule. The Lockheed Martin team will then inspect the capsule to make sure it is cool enough to touch. They will also begin preparations for the capsule to be delivered to a temporary clean room in Utah.
While this is happening, the science team, led by Lauretta, will probe the capsule in the surrounding area to catalog the local environment around the capsule.
“One of the main scientific goals of OSIRIS-REx is to return a pristine sample, and ‘pristine’ means that no extraneous material interferes with our investigation of the samples,” Lauretta said in a media teleconference on Friday.
“As unlikely as it is, we want to make sure that any materials in Utah that may interact with the sample are well documented,” he added.
Ideally, the sample would be delivered to the temporary clean room sometime before 11am. MDT, and the dismantling could begin as early as 11:30 a.m. MDT and be completed by 5 p.m. MDT.
Disassembly involves removing the heat shield and the back shell of the capsule to reveal the sample canister, which OSIRIS-REx Chief Curator Nicole Lunning describes as a “nesting doll.”
A stream of nitrogen will be placed over the canisters to create a protective, local atmosphere. That container of the sample will be flown to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston before finally being transported to the Johnson Space Center.
There it will be opened and scientific analysis will begin.
Recovery teams participate in field rehearsals in preparation for the sample return capsule from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission in 2023. on Tuesday, July 18, at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range. Image: NASA / Keegan Barber When will scientists begin to analyze the collected sample? The earliest the canister containing the sample will be capped is Monday, September 25, if all goes ahead as planned. The titular script takes the lid off Tuesday, September 26.
The unveiling will not be broadcast live, but NASA officials said they will document and share footage with the public. October 11 a press conference is planned to discuss the initial analysis with comments from Lauretta along with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson; Francis McCubbin, Deputy Curator of OSIRIS-REx; and Daniel Galvinas, OSIRIS-REx Sample Analysis Manager.
“The tag felt surreal, but in a way, the return of the sample itself takes that surreality to a whole other level. We’ve been working on this mission for over a decade, and counting the proposal phase, it’s been going on for almost two decades,” Bierhaus said. “So to spend that much time on something and for it to finally become real is pretty extraordinary.”