NASA has achieved a significant breakthrough by successfully unlocking a capsule containing invaluable material sampled from an asteroid, overcoming the challenge posed by two stubborn fasteners. This achievement marks a crucial step in the OSIRIS-REx mission, which collected rocks and dust from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu after traveling nearly 4 billion miles. The breakthrough follows a monthslong process to release the trapped sample material, previously concealed within the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism.
The Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, equipped with a robotic arm and storage container, collected the asteroid sample from Bennu. However, the sampler head was held shut by 35 fasteners, and two of them proved challenging to open. NASA had to exercise caution to minimize the risk of damaging or contaminating the precious samples, using preapproved materials and tools within the confined space of a glovebox.
To address this challenge, NASA developed two tools crafted from surgical steel. The hardest metal approved for use in pristine curation gloveboxes. The tools were rigorously tested in a rehearsal lab to ensure they could successfully remove the unyielding fasteners. The development and implementation of these tools showcased the curation team’s impressive resilience and dedication to overcoming the obstacle.
While the trapped sample material had not yet been reveal as of Thursday, NASA anticipates conducting a few additional disassembly steps. Afterward, the hidden cache can be photographed, extracted, and weighed. The analysis of material previously harvested from Bennu has already provided valuable insights. Revealing the presence of water in the form of hydrated clay minerals and carbon. This discovery supports the current theory of how water arrived on Earth billions of years ago.
NASA’s successful unlocking of the asteroid sample trapped behind stuck fasteners represents a significant achievement in space exploration. This breakthrough paves the way for further analysis and study of the precious material collected from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. Contributing to our understanding of the cosmos and the origins of water on Earth.