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May 29, 2024

NASA Finally Accesses Precious Asteroid Samples After Months of Struggle

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Jan 14, 2024

NASA has finally gained full access to the precious sample collected from asteroid Bennu, after months of technical difficulties trying to open the sample container. This marks a major milestone for the agency and opens up enormous scientific potential.

Opening the Sample Container

In January 2023, NASA first reported issues opening up the OSIRIS-REx sample container after its return to Earth in September 2022 [1]. The container held samples collected from asteroid Bennu in October 2020. However, two fasteners on the container lid remained stuck, preventing scientists from accessing the majority of the sample.

Over the next several months, engineers worked meticulously to devise a solution. Progress was extremely slow due to the precious nature of the sample and the complex mechanics involved [2]. Finally on January 11, 2024, NASA announced that both fasteners had been successfully removed, unlocking the full asteroid sample [3].

Sample Container Fastener Status Date
First fastener removed October 12, 2023
Second fastener removed January 11, 2024

This breakthrough came after engineers implemented an innovative solution using precision tools to slowly back the fasteners out. Great care was taken to avoid damage and prevent any loss of the invaluable samples inside.

Scientific Potential

The material within the container originated from asteroid Bennu over 4 billion years ago. It represents some of the most pristine and uncontaminated space material ever collected [4].

Asteroids like Bennu contain chemical components that may have seeded early Earth with the organic molecules necessary for life. Studying the sample could reveal key insights into the origins of life itself [5].

Now with the container successfully opened, scientists can begin comprehensive analysis of the material using advanced instrumentation [6]. This will allow them to address fundamental questions about the early solar system, asteroids, and potential hazards to Earth.

What’s Next

Over the coming months, NASA will undertake meticulous curation of the samples [7]. This involves carefully cataloging, dividing up, and preparing subsets for distribution to research teams around the world.

Parallel analysis work has already begun using previously extracted sample material [8]. Now researchers will apply cutting-edge instruments like mass spectrometers, electron microscopes, and X-ray beamlines to probe the molecular makeup in unprecedented detail [9].

Discoveries made could reshape our understanding of solar system evolution, the asteroid threat to Earth, and possibly even the emergence of life itself. After overcoming immense technical obstacles, NASA can now reap the rewards of its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s multi-year mission to asteroid Bennu.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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