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NASA finally unlocks asteroid sample locked behind stuck fasteners

Tue 16 Jan 2024    
| < 1 min read

For several months, the space agency dedicated efforts to create tools capable of unlocking stuck fasteners that had locked the sample gathered from the nearby asteroid Bennu.

NASA recently announced the successful release of valuable material collected from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, after encountering challenges with two stubborn fasteners. The space agency had gathered about 2.5 ounces of rocks and dust during the OSIRIS-REx mission, covering a journey of nearly 4 billion miles. However, a capsule within the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, containing some material from Bennu, was initially inaccessible due to difficult-to-open fasteners.

The mechanism, operated by a robotic arm, had 35 fasteners holding the sampler head shut. NASA faced the complex task of carefully prying it open using preapproved tools and materials to prevent damage or contamination of the samples. Two surgical steel tools were created and tested in a controlled environment to ensure their effectiveness.

As of the latest update, the specific details of the trapped sample material have not been disclosed. NASA mentioned that a few additional disassembly steps are needed before the hidden cache can be photographed, extracted, and weighed. Previous analysis of material harvested from Bennu revealed the presence of water in the form of hydrated clay minerals and carbon. Scientists believe such findings support the theory of water arriving on Earth from asteroids billions of years ago.

Some of the previously collected Bennu samples have been securely stored for future studies over several decades. The success of the OSIRIS-REx mission is crucial in expanding our understanding of the origin of water on Earth and the composition of asteroids.

Also read: NASA Voyager 1 glitch sends nonsensical messages back to earth

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