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Escaping Asteroid Samples
News Bytes 10/28/2020 12 Comments

A NASA spacecraft descended to an asteroid last week. The ship dodged boulders the size of buildings, briefly touched the surface, and collected a handful of cosmic rubble. But the grab was so greedy that the spacecraft jammed open. Now precious particles are drifting away in space.

OSIRIS-REx was deployed on a NASA asteroid-study and sample-return mission. The spacecraft has been circling the asteroid for about two years. Last week, the craft descended to the treacherous, boulder-packed surface and snatched a handful of rubble. “Touchdown declared,” a flight controller announced to cheers and applause. “Sampling is in progress.”

Sadly, scientists believe getting pieces from this Bennu could help them understand how the planets formed “billions of years ago” and how life originated on Earth. Christians have God’s word to tell them that God created the world and everything in it. (See the Genesis 1 account of creation!)

Lead scientist Dante Lauretta says, “I can’t believe we actually pulled this off.”

There’s just one problem.

The sample container on the end of the robot arm penetrated so far into the asteroid—and with such force—that rocks got sucked in and wedged the lid open.

“We’re almost a victim of our own success here,” Lauretta explains. He says the only thing flight controllers can do is get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible.

“Time is of the essence,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of NASA’s science missions.

The jubilant scientists were stunned and dismayed to see a cloud of particles swirling around the spacecraft as it backed away from Bennu, more than 200 million miles away. According to Lauretta, the situation seemed to stabilize when the robot arm locked into place. But the NASA team still couldn’t tell exactly how much rubble had already been lost. They had hoped to bring back a minimum of two ounces.

Because of the sudden turn of events, scientists won’t know how much the sample capsule holds until it’s back on Earth. They had planned to spin the spacecraft and measure the contents. But they canceled that move—since even more debris could spill.

“I think we’re going to have to wait until we get home to know precisely how much we have,” Lauretta says. “As you can imagine, that’s hard. . . . But the good news is we see a lot of material.”

Regardless of what’s on board, the asteroid mission is over. OSIRIS-REx will keep drifting away from Bennu without orbiting or touching down on the asteroid again.

The space grab was a first for the United States: Only Japan has scored asteroid samples before. In fact, Japan, is currently waiting for its second batch of samples taken from a different asteroid. That spacecraft is due back in December. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft isn’t due home until 2023. NASA scientists will just have to wait.

(In this image taken from video released by NASA, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touches the surface of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. NASA via AP)

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Most recent comments

first comment

I think its crazy that they are able to do this

2nd Comment

Wow, that must be really disappointing for the scientists, to get that close only to lose some of their samples

3rd comment

That is neat that they were able to do that, but sad that it partially wrecked the craft and they lost samples.

Ugh, I'm sure they're

Ugh, I'm sure they're dissapointed, I hope they can fix this.

Phew, 2023. Wow...

Phew, 2023. Wow...

Interesting

Interesting

]sigh[

disappointing just disappointing

Depressing

Losing some of your dirt for your experiment that you can only get when you go to that planet which is only certain times of the year would be so disappointing.

aaaaaawww

aw man...

aaaaaawww

aw man...

It must be pretty tense for

It must be pretty tense for them at NASA. Hope it returns with even a tiny sample. And it would be even better if it proved that the planets were made by a great creator.

To above

I agree

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