NASA has finally released some high-resolution images of the space agency's first asteroid sample collection, which arrived back on Earth as part of NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission.
NASA collected the OSIRIS-REx capsule more than 3 months ago after it safely landed back on Earth on September 24, but due to the sampler's lid being tightly fastened onto the capsule, researchers were unable to open it. The mission was overall a massive success as NASA captured many more samples than it anticipated, even to the point where there were asteroid samples located on the top of the capsule lid.
The delay was specifically attributed to the two fasteners located on the top of the capsule, and since researchers are only able to interact with the capsule within its dedicated air-tight container through the use of gloves, engineers had to design special tools to unfasten the screws holding the lid in place. That was achieved, and now NASA has 2.48 ounces or 70 grams of asteroid dust.
Once NASA has fully opened up the capsule and weighed every grain of asteroid dust, the space agency will announce the total weight of what was captured during the visit to asteroid Bennu. Once that step is complete, researchers from around the world will submit requests to either obtain a portion of the sample for research or to place it on display.
"Finally having the TAGSAM head open and full access to the returned Bennu samples is a monumental achievement that reflects the unwavering dedication and ingenuity of our team," says astronomer Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on January 10.
"This success reaffirms the significance of OSIRIS-REx and our commitment to advancing our understanding of the cosmos. We eagerly anticipate the next chapter as we share these precious samples with the global scientific community and continue our journey of discovery."