A material obtained from the asteroid Bennu has been secured into a samp0le return capsule by NASA’s OSIRIS-REX spaceship. The process was hastened after images were captured, showing the material leaking into space. According to a briefing given on 29 October, the officials in charge of the project stated that they had been able to stow a sample collection device, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), aboard a capsule of the spaceship. With a robotic arm’s help, the TAGSAM head was steered into position in the capsule and then sealed.
On 20 October, the head of the TAGSAM made contact with the asteroid Bennu for a few seconds and obtained a large volume of the material. According to an official statement on 0ctober 23, the TAGSAM, in its quest to obtain the material, collected excess material, making the Mylar flap designed to seal the material in place had been jammed open a few large rocks, consequently making some of it to leak out. This occurrence led to NASA accelerating the whole process of stowing TAGSAM head back into the capsule en route to Earth, skipping some steps like weighing the material. To move the TAGSAM by the use of the robotic arm took controllers 36 hours to steer its head into position in the returning capsule and ensure it was safely sealed.
With the swift move into action and accelerating the timeline for the project, there was the skipping of the maneuver to carefully spin the spaceship, recording the change in its moment of inertia during the sampling attempt and the estimation of the weight of the material collected as the process would lead to loss of more materials. As per Dante Lauretta, the chief investigator for the mission at the University of Arizona, the team was confident that though there was leakage, a large amount of material was still available in the TAGSAM head during the sealing in the capsule. Lauretta stated that he was confident the material contained in the TAGSAM was more than the projected 60 grams, with images from inside the head indicating at least 400 grams of the matter.
Scientists have analyzed the captured images taken during and after the sampling to better comprehend the material’s surface. In his statement, Lauretta indicated that pictures from the leaking material indicated it to be flaky in appearance. With the material collected safely sealed in the capsule, the mission’s primary goal is to return the samples to Earth with the widow for the spaceship’s movement to depart the area around the Bennu opening in early March 2021.