The Osiris-Rex probe returns to Earth in a capsule small samples of the asteroid Benu, a "real small world" for analysis * The spacecraft itself will continue to meet the asteroid Apophis which will pass very close to the Earth in 2029
After a journey of hundreds of millions of kilometers, the probe will drop a capsule full of asteroid samples close to Earth.
Today, in September around 17:00 Israel time, the capsule that came out of the Osiris-Rex spacecraft landed successfully at a large training complex of the US Army in Utah. A team from NASA and the US Air Force managed to get hold of the space capsule containing the samples from the asteroid Benu that the spacecraft collected in 2020. This is the first time that NASA manages to return a sample from an asteroid let alone successfully extract it.
In the capsule are several hundred grams of precious rock fragments and dust collected from the asteroid Banu. It left the Osiris-Rex probe and flew alone on a long journey through space and the Earth's atmosphere. After cleaning the capsule, the samples will be sent to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the capsule will be opened and the scientists will be able to study what is inside."
At 12:37 p.m. ET (19:37 Israel time), a helicopter gently placed NASA's OSIRIS-REx sample capsule, attached to the end of a 100-foot cable, on the ground outside the hangar at the Department of Defense Test and Training Range in Utah. Two technicians on the ground helped guide the capsule down.
After the helicopter cable was disconnected and the helicopter departed, the cleanroom crew removed the capsule from its metal transport cradle. They loaded the capsule onto a cart and wheeled it to the hangar where a temporary clean room was set up. In the hangar, the capsule was stripped and fully cleaned, then taken to the clean room for disassembly.
To protect the clean room from contaminants, only six people are allowed inside. Covered from head to toe in bunny suits, hoods, nitrile gloves, shoe covers and hair and beard covers, their job is to disassemble the capsule and remove the unopened sample container inside. They will be packing all the parts for plane transport to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Monday tomorrow.
Once the decommissioning team opens the capsule and removes several components, revealing the unopened sample container, the plan is to connect the container to a continuous flow of nitrogen, which will be monitored hourly. Nitrogen is an inert gas that will protect our sample from oxygen, moisture and other contaminants; NASA has used nitrogen to protect space samples since the Apollo era.
If the cleanroom team finds asteroid particles scattered inside the capsule, they will collect them and place them in aluminum cups for transfer to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The disassembly and packaging process is expected to take about five hours, with a cleanroom technician documenting the process for NASA's history records.
More information about the origin of the solar system in general and the Earth in particular
Thanks to the study of the samples, the researchers will be able to get to know the chemical composition of these samples and know more about the primary materials that made up the Earth. Asteroids are considered fossils of the beginning of the solar system and they contain the basic building blocks that made it possible, four and a half billion years ago, to gradually create our solar system. And above all, they contain the "building blocks" that gave birth to life. First results of the analysis of the samples are expected in the coming months. Some of this extraterrestrial material will be kept precious in the United States, while waiting for new technologies to emerge, which will, it is hoped, enable surgeries that are still impossible today.
The return of the samples is a significant step in an extraordinary journey, which has already provided quite a bit of knowledge. The Osiris-Rex spacecraft, launched in 2016, orbited Beno in late 2018, somewhere in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Before collecting samples from this asteroid with a diameter of about 500 meters, the scientists studied it with the help of the Osiris Rex spacecraft. Up close these objects are much more complex and fascinating than we could tell from observations through telescopes. With the help of the close observation, a scientific abundance of rocks was detected on the surface of Benno, a body that is barely 500 meters in diameter and has very little gravity.
The origin of the rocks is in a variety of geological processes - avalanches, surface movements, cracks in the rocks as a result of terrestrial fatigue, impact of smaller bodies that created craters, and more.
After landing several probes on the asteroid, Osiris-Rex descended on its own and touched the surface to collect the material that arrived on Earth today. It was the first time the US agency had attempted this complex maneuver, which only a Japanese mission had succeeded on another asteroid a year earlier.
The Osiris-Rex probe has not finished its journey in space, as once its sample capsule has fallen it will make its way to another asteroid called Apophis, which is about to pass very close to Earth in 2029.
More of the topic in Hayadan: