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Osiris-Rex: The asteroid sample raises questions, and the shutter continues to blur

Osiris-Rex: The asteroid sample raises questions, and the shutter continues to blur

While NASA is developing new screwdrivers to access the remaining material sample from the Osiris-Rex asteroid probe, the material that has already been analyzed poses a puzzle for research. This appears from a report in the research journal Nature, which quoted the mission’s chief scientist, Dante Lauretta. Accordingly, some significantly brighter pieces containing magnesium, sodium and phosphate were found among the asteroid’s very dark material. Such a formation is very rare for rocks that have collided with the Earth. You can’t really explain it. There are also indications that the sample contains more water than previously thought.

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These preliminary results were determined using over 70 grams of sample material, Nature continues. Another 30 to 70 grams remain in the sample container and are currently inaccessible. Since two of the total 35 fasteners cannot be removed, NASA has to develop special tools. This must be approved for use in a nitrogen chamber, where the sample container is largely protected from ground effects. According to Nature magazine, they are working on special screwdrivers made of a material that does not contaminate samples when they are taken. The magazine wrote that it may take weeks for the tools to be ready and usable.

In total, the researchers have already cataloged more than 1,000 particles larger than half a millimeter. The largest piece was 3.5 cm long and obstructed the sample collection mechanism. Like all the pieces, it is black, but has a blue glow, Nature reported. This indicates that there is more water in it than previously assumed. In general, the samples contain a lot of volatile materials, making the task worth it for that alone. Otherwise, when pieces of rock are hurtled through Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up, which is why the meteorites examined so far don’t have this.

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OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer) was launched in September 2016 and arrived on Bennu about two years later. The probe then explored the celestial body from orbit. In October 2020, I was able to take samples from its surface. In the spring of 2021, the probe returned to Earth, where it delivered the sample at the end of September. But its work is not finished yet, as it is now heading to the summit of Osiris towards the near-Earth asteroid Apophis. It is supposed to reach this point after flying very close to Earth in 2029 and exploring it from its orbit.


(meh)

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