Judging from the newly released footage — which you can watch below — the Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event appears to have been a success.
The footage shows OSIRIS-REx making contact with Bennu where the spacecraft immediately fires into the asteroid’s surface to collect samples, sparking a debris cloud.“The sampling event brought the spacecraft all the way down to sample site Nightingale, and the team on Earth received confirmation of successful touchdown at 6:08 pm EDT,” according to NASA.
“Preliminary data show the sampling head touched Bennu’s surface for approximately 6 seconds, after which the spacecraft performed a back-away burn.”
The asteroid mission made a mess — and that’s a good thing. “We really did kind of make a mess on the surface of this asteroid. But it’s a good mess,” OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, of the University of Arizona, informed the press. “It’s the kind of mess we were hoping for.”
One of the several reasons why NASA selected Bennu was because of its primordial origins. As NASA explained: “Bennu is a leftover fragment from the tumultuous formation of the solar system. Some of the mineral fragments inside Bennu could be older than the solar system. These microscopic grains of dust could be the same ones that spewed from dying stars and eventually coalesced to make the Sun and its planets nearly 4.6 billion years ago.”
Meteorites that strike Earth are contaminated by both their descent into our atmosphere and the elements that they’re exposed to for years. Going straight to the source, if you will, offers astronomers the chance to study the ancient origins of life.
Star Wars Rip-Offs
OSIRIS-REx will continue collecting samples and mapping Bennu before beginning its return mission to Earth in March 2021. It is expected to land back in the U.S. in 2023.
For more science coverage, discover why there’s a 50-50 chance we really are living in a simulation, how paradox-free time-travel is possible, and why these scientists have “no intention of raising dinosaurs.”