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NASA Unveils Impressive 121.6 Gram Bulk Sample Mass from OSIRIS-REx Mission to Asteroid Bennu.


Behold, eight sample trays filled with the ultimate material from asteroid Bennu. Extracted from the top plate of the TAGSAM head, 51.2 grams were meticulously collected, contributing to a final asteroid sample mass of 121.6 grams. Image credit: NASA/Erika Blumenfeld & Joseph Aebersold.

Upon its return to Earth on September 24, 2023, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft delivered an extraordinary payload – 4.29 ounces (121.6 grams) of material from asteroid Bennu. This achievement not only surpassed the mission’s requirement but also set a record as the largest asteroid sample ever collected in space, doubling the mission’s initial goal. The mission team, initially aiming for a minimum of 60 grams for scientific objectives, found this surpassed even before fully opening the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) head.

In October 2023, curation processors at NASA’s Johnson Space Center managed to collect rocks and dust from the TAGSAM head’s housing canister and the head itself through its mylar flap. However, disassembly of the TAGSAM head faced a temporary halt in late October 2023 due to two stubborn fasteners hindering the completion of the process to unveil the final asteroid sample within.

After Successful Tool Development, ARES Engineers Complete TAGSAM Head Disassembly.

OSIRIS-REx astromaterials processors Rachel Funk, Julia Plummer, and Jannatul Ferdous lift the top plate of the TAGSAM head, pouring the last portion of asteroid rocks and dust into sample trays below.

ARES curation engineers, having designed, produced, and rigorously tested new tools, successfully removed the fasteners in January, completing the disassembly of the TAGSAM head on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The eagerly awaited remaining Bennu sample was unveiled and meticulously poured into wedge-shaped containers, yielding 1.81 ounces (51.2 grams).

Combined with the previously measured 2.48 ounces (70.3 grams) and additional particles collected outside the pour, the cumulative Bennu sample now boasts a substantial mass of 4.29 ounces (121.6 grams). NASA’s commitment to advancing scientific exploration extends to preserving a minimum of 70% of this celestial material at Johnson Space Center, ensuring a rich resource for ongoing and future research by scientists worldwide, spanning multiple generations.

The Bennu material is set to embark on a new phase of exploration. It will be carefully containerized and distributed to researchers worldwide for in-depth study. As an integral part of the OSIRIS-REx mission, a diverse cohort of over 200 scientists globally, representing various US institutions, NASA partners such as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), CSA (Canadian Space Agency), and more, will delve into the regolith’s properties.

This collaborative effort promises to unravel key insights into the composition and history of asteroid Bennu. Anticipating further scientific engagement, the curation team plans to release a catalog of the OSIRIS-REx samples later this spring, opening doors for requests from the global scientific community eager to contribute to the ongoing exploration of this celestial treasure.

Surendra Uikey

My name is Surendra Uikey, I am a science blogger, I have been blogging for the past three years, because I love to write, especially on astronomy, and I believe, if you want to learn something, then start learning others, By this it will be, that you learn things in a better way. In 2019, I started, the aim of making was to connect astronomy in simple words to common people.

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