NASA’s recent success in returning a sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth has hit a roadblock as scientists encounter difficulties in opening the precious cargo. The Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), responsible for collecting the sample, is proving to be a challenge to unlock, preventing access to a significant portion of the sample.
Out of the 35 fasteners on the TAGSAM head, two stubbornly refuse to yield to the current set of tools approved for use in the OSIRIS-REx glovebox. These tools must fit inside the glovebox to maintain the integrity and pristine condition of the collected samples. As a result, the team behind the mission is now faced with the task of finding a solution that will enable them to access the samples using either the available tools or new tools that can fit within the confinements of the glovebox.
Despite these hurdles, a significant amount of rocks and dust has already been retrieved from the sample head. So far, a whopping 70.3 grams of material have been accessed both from outside and inside the head, surpassing the initial goal of 60 grams. However, a portion of the material remains inaccessible due to the stubborn fasteners that hold it in place, effectively sealing it off from exploration.
In an effort to overcome this obstacle, NASA has announced plans to develop and practice a new technique for removing the fasteners. This will be done alongside the ongoing processing and study of the samples that have already been successfully extracted. The hope is that this innovative approach will pave the way for gaining access to the remaining material trapped within the TAGSAM head.
The team is diligently working to ensure that no stone is left unturned in their mission to unlock the secrets contained within the asteroid Bennu sample. With the commitment of NASA’s scientists and their dedication to innovation, it is expected that a solution will soon be found, allowing for the analysis and study of the complete sample.
As the space agency navigates this unforeseen challenge, the world eagerly awaits the unveiling of the treasures hidden within the asteroid that has traveled millions of miles to reach our planet. The knowledge gained from this remarkable endeavor will undoubtedly deepen our understanding of the universe and the mysteries it holds.
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