NASA's ambitious OSIRIS-REx mission, which aimed to collect and bring back samples from the asteroid Bennu, faced a significant challenge as engineers struggled to open the container holding the precious asteroid dust. After over four months of meticulous attempts, NASA has finally achieved the breakthrough.
The seven-year-long OSIRIS-REx mission was designed to explore asteroid Bennu and return with invaluable samples of its surface. However, opening the container proved to be a complex endeavor.
The container, which touched down in Utah in September of the previous year, couldn't be accessed immediately due to two stubbornly stuck bolts out of the 35 fasteners securing the lid. Moreover, it had to be opened in a sterile environment to prevent contamination from Earth's microorganisms and substances.
While the outer capsule's opening provided access to 70 grams of asteroid dust, the main TAGSAM (Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) container head with the majority of the sample remained sealed. The team had to create two new multi-part tools that could operate within the confined space of the glovebox to resolve this issue.
Opening the main capsule demands specific conditions within the glovebox, and once accomplished, the material will be forwarded to leading laboratories worldwide for in-depth analysis.
Scientists are eager to examine, extract, and measure this remarkable collection of asteroid material, which holds clues to the early solar system's composition.