Tue. Nov 24th, 2020

It is believed that NASA’s spacecraft, the OSIRIS-Rex collected so much sampling specimen from asteroid Bennu that the sampling head lid has jammed. This has caused the sampling materials to leak and change the team’s plans for the entire mission. During a media briefing held by NASA, the officials said that from some images which were taken from sampling device, they could see some materials leaking out of the collecting container from a gap that is along with the Mylar diaphragm that was instead supposed to be sealed from the bottom region of the head.

The images show a cloud of some small particles outside the TAGSAM; they are floating away from it at intervals of one centimeter per second. The estimated material, as it is seen on the images, is approximately 5 to 10 grams. NASA’s concern that there would be more material which might keep leaking from the gap has made the team change their initial plans for this mission. Lauretta has said that there is a maneuver planned for the weekend, whereby the spacecraft would be spun slowly to try and measure its moment of inertia. Hence, the mass of the sampling material has been canceled. They have underway planned to stow samples in the canister inside spacecraft where they will be sealed for a safe return journey to earth.

The stowing process was set to take place in November with assumptions that the sample material did not hit their preferred target of 60 grams. Lauretta also said that they might lose more tens of grams to stow the sample materials collected. They also see some probability that the material stuck on the bottom side of TAGSAM baseplate could also tend to interfere with the whole stowing process. Still, they hope that as from the images, none of the materials appeared to big enough to pose such a problem in the entire stowing process. 

Lauretta said that the TAGSAM could have collected much material and two kilograms in sample head. This assumption is made bearing in mind that the head plunged a depth as deep as 48 centimeters, which is below the surface of Bennu during the touch and go maneuver. He also stated that the greatest uncertainty they had about the asteroid during the entire mission development is that they never knew the strength of its surface.

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