Now NASA is facing a difficult task, that is, how to keep the collected materials intact without leaking a lot of materials. This delicate process becomes more difficult because the spacecraft is in weightlessness about 200 million miles (32000 kilometers) away.
On Tuesday, the robot arm of the Osiris Rex asteroid probe, designed by Lockheed Martin, touched the surface of the asteroid Benu and ejected the nitrogen it carried to stir up the gravel and dust on the surface of the asteroid, which was then captured by a collecting device.
Image: this image shows the head of the Osiris Rex asteroid probe sampler covered with rocks and dust collected from the surface of Bunu
However, the nitrogen jet seems to have stirred up so much gravel and dust on the asteroids surface that some of it gets stuck in the device, keeping the lid open. Nevertheless, NASA officials say they believe the probe has collected enough samples, far more than the 60 grams originally planned, and are confident that the lid of the collection device will be closed and not spill too much material.
Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and principal investigator of the mission, said: Im very confident that this [operation] will be successful. The probe has collected a lot of material. There must be hundreds of grams, maybe even more.. What Im most worried about right now is that the samples collected are being scattered. Some of the biggest particles keep the lid from closing.
NASA plans to store the collection equipment in the re-entry module as early as Tuesday instead of measuring the amount of material collected as originally planned. At the same time, NASA will keep the spacecraft and collection equipment as stable as possible, fearing that any unnecessary movement will cause more material to be thrown out.
When I see these images, Im very worried, and I think the most prudent thing to do now is to safely store what we already have and minimize future losses, Loretta said
But scientists wont know how much asteroid material theyve collected until 2023, when the probe returns to earth.
We have to wait until the detector comes home to know exactly how much we have, and you can imagine its hard, he said But the good news is that we did see a lot of samples collected, so we are now in a situation where we have more samples than we need 60 grams.
This is the first time NASA has collected samples from a small planet, and there are an estimated 1 million Benu like asteroids in the entire solar system. Scientists believe that these substances can reveal how the universe was formed and how water will disappear from the earth.
The asteroid Bennu has a history of more than 4.5 billion years. It is the size of the Empire State Building in New York and looks like a huge walnut. Scientists believe that the clay of Bennu contains carbon and water. (Chen Chen)
Source: Wang Fengzhi, editor in charge of Netease science and Technology Report_ NT2541