OSIRIS-REx capsule lands with extraterrestrial treasure

27.09.2023 posted by Admin

Unveiling asteroid treasures and TAGSAM challenges

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's return capsule successfully landed on Earth this past Sunday, marking the beginning of the process to retrieve its precious cargo. After transport to NASA's Johnson Space Center, the capsule's lid was carefully opened within a specialized glovebox to ensure no contamination. NASA's initial inspection inside the capsule unveiled what they've termed "black dust and debris," and this is just the beginning; the primary container remains unopened.

Contained within the capsule is approximately 250 grams of pristine material gathered from the asteroid Bennu, constituting the largest ever collection of extraterrestrial material beyond the Moon. Recently, the team removed the lid of the science canister, exposing the presence of dark powder and sand-sized particles, presumably from the asteroid. This discovery bodes well for the upcoming opening of the Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM).

The TAGSAM is the specialized instrument employed for extracting material from Bennu's surface, and its disassembly process is quite intricate. Stringent measures have been taken to isolate the material, with extensive rehearsal conducted over the past few months.

"All of these operations are taking place in a state-of-the-art laboratory tailored for the OSIRIS-REx mission. The removal of the aluminum lid occurred within a glovebox designed to facilitate working with this substantial piece of hardware," stated Shaneequa Vereen, representing NASA's Johnson Space Center in a blog post.

The subsequent step involves isolating the TAGSAM from the rest of the canister, transferring it to a dedicated glovebox for opening. During this procedure, the TAGSAM will be moved into a sealed transfer container continuously filled with nitrogen—an inert gas that prevents reactions and keeps oxygen and moisture at bay.

"The team is maintaining an exceptionally high level of precision during these operations to ensure delicate hardware removal without any contact with the precious sample inside," added Vereen.

The exciting moment when the sample is revealed will be broadcasted live. NASA plans to stream a special broadcast on October 11 at 11 am ET (3 pm UTC), showcasing the complete disassembly process of the TAGSAM and the unveiling of the sample.
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