NASA announced on Friday that its Osiris-Rex probe had managed to collect a very large amount of particles from the asteroid Bennu earlier this week, but that there were so many that the collection compartment was unable to pull itself apart. close. “A substantial fraction of the harvested mass is escapingDante Lauretta, head of the mission, said during a conference call with the press.
The probe would have recovered around 400 grams of fragments, much more than the minimum 60 grams, and in any case several hundred grams, according to the scientist. Already 5 to 10 grams have been observed around the collecting arm, in a cloud remaining more or less in the surroundings, due to the microgravity environment which makes the fragments behave like fluids. “My big worry is that particles are escaping, we are the victims of our successSaid Dante Lauretta.
As a result, the mass measurement operation, originally scheduled for Saturday, was canceled, as it would risk scattering even more samples. The urgency is now to reduce the activities of the device to a minimum, and to prepare as quickly as possible for the storage of samples in a container on the probe. The fragments are currently in a compartment at the end of the probe’s collection arm. It is the closing mechanism of this compartment which is blocked by relatively large particles.
Does Osiris-Rex risk losing all of her treasure? “We think we are losing a small fraction of the materials, but this is more than I would like, I’m quite worried since I saw the picturesDante Lauretta replied. «The most careful is to store as carefully as possible to minimize any future loss.».