OSIRIS-REx Unveils Ancient Asteroid Material: A Glimpse into Our Solar System’s Origins

OSIRIS-REx Unveils Ancient Asteroid Material: A Glimpse into Our Solar System’s Origins

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission has finally revealed the first high-resolution images of the contents within its Bennu asteroid sampler container. These images, captured after more than 3.5 months since the spacecraft’s return to Earth, showcase black dust and rocks measuring up to about 1 cm in size. While the appearance may seem ordinary, it is essential to remember that these materials have likely remained untouched for approximately 4.5 billion years, carrying potential insights into the origins of our Solar System.

The delay in releasing these images was attributed to two stubborn fasteners that securely held the sampler lid in place. Finally, on January 10, these fasteners were successfully opened, granting access to the long-awaited content.

In order to achieve super high-resolution images of the asteroid sample, the astromaterials team utilized a special technique. Erika Blumenfeld, the creative lead for Advanced Imaging and Visualization of Astromaterials (AIVA), along with Joe Aebersold, the AIVA project lead, captured the captivating image that portrays the OSIRIS-REx Touch-and-Go-Sample-Acquisition-Mechanism (TAGSAM) head with the lid removed.

The coming weeks will be dedicated to determining the mass of this newly accessed sample. Additionally, the team aims to remove the round metal collar seen in the image and transfer the remaining sample into pie-wedge sample trays. These trays will be meticulously photographed, the sample will be weighed, and ultimately the material will be stored at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

In the near future, a comprehensive catalog of Bennu samples will be released, prompting scientists worldwide to submit requests for research or display purposes. It is worth noting that 75 percent of the sample will be carefully stored for future analysis.

With the success of OSIRIS-REx, now renamed OSIRIS-APEX, scientists are eagerly looking forward to the next chapter in understanding our cosmos. Meanwhile, the spacecraft is en route to rendezvous with another asteroid, Apophis, a potentially hazardous object, in 2029. As OSIRIS-APEX continues its journey, it further highlights humanity’s unwavering dedication and ingenuity to explore and unlock the mysteries of the universe.

FAQ:

1. What did NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission reveal?
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission revealed the first high-resolution images of the contents within its Bennu asteroid sampler container.

2. How long has it been since the spacecraft’s return to Earth?
It has been more than 3.5 months since the spacecraft’s return to Earth.

3. What do the images show?
The images show black dust and rocks measuring up to about 1 cm in size.

4. How long have these materials likely remained untouched?
These materials have likely remained untouched for approximately 4.5 billion years.

5. What caused the delay in releasing the images?
The delay was attributed to two stubborn fasteners that securely held the sampler lid in place.

6. When were the fasteners successfully opened?
The fasteners were successfully opened on January 10.

7. How were the super high-resolution images achieved?
The astromaterials team used a special technique to achieve super high-resolution images of the asteroid sample.

8. What is the next step in the mission?
The next step is to determine the mass of the accessed sample and remove the round metal collar seen in the image.

9. Where will the sample be stored?
The sample will be stored at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

10. What will happen to the sample in the future?
A comprehensive catalog of Bennu samples will be released, and scientists worldwide can submit requests for research. 75 percent of the sample will be stored for future analysis.

Definitions:

1. Astromaterials – Materials originating from celestial bodies, such as asteroids or meteorites.
2. TAGSAM – Stands for Touch-and-Go-Sample-Acquisition-Mechanism, a device used by the OSIRIS-REx mission to collect a sample from the Bennu asteroid.

Suggested Related Links:
NASA
OSIRIS-REx Mission
First High-Resolution Look at NASA’s OSIRIS-REx’s Sample