NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, which successfully brought back samples from the asteroid Bennu, is experiencing a slower-than-anticipated start to the initial curation process. The reason behind this delay lies in the mission’s remarkable success—it collected a significantly larger amount of material than scientists had originally expected.
Upon the removal of the sample canister lid last month, researchers were taken aback by the abundant material retrieved from the asteroid. Consequently, the process of removing and disassembling the TAGSAM (Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) head, which contains a substantial portion of the sample, is being conducted with meticulous care.
When the sample was collected from Bennu over three years ago, scientists had anticipated finding some asteroid material in the canister outside the head. This expectation was based on observations of particles slowly escaping during the collection process. However, the actual volume of particles found coating the inside of the canister lid far exceeded their initial estimates.
Currently, the first sample obtained from outside the TAGSAM head is undergoing a quick-look analysis. This analysis aims to provide scientists with an initial understanding of the Bennu material and offer insights into what can be anticipated when the bulk sample is eventually extracted and examined.
Meanwhile, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft remains active and continues its mission. It is now en route to the asteroid Apophis under a new mission name—OSIRIS-APEX. This exciting new endeavor represents another chapter in NASA’s exploration of celestial bodies within our solar system, promising to uncover further insights into the mysteries of the cosmos.