China News Agency Houston, October 24. NASA said on the 23rd that there was an emergency in the mission of the “Osiris-Rex” probe. A few days ago, after the probe collected rock samples on the surface of the asteroid “Bennu” and flew away, some sample fragments were continuously leaking from the probe into space.
In September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx probe was launched into space. Since the end of 2018, the probe has been orbiting the “Bennu” and sent the collected data and images back to Earth. The picture shows the rocks on the asteroid “Bennu” taken by the OSIRIS-REx probe.
NASA held a temporary press conference on the 23rd. The chief scientist of the mission, Dante Laureta, said that by analyzing the images taken by the detector, the researchers believe that the detector collected 400 grams of samples, which is more than expected. However, currently, the cover of the sample collector is opened by a larger rock by at least one centimeter. The collector is located at the end of the detector arm. At present, broken particles are continuously leaking into space through gaps, and the amount of leakage is not stable. They float around the detector, like a cloud of particles.
According to a CNN report, researchers said that during the process of collecting space rocks, the robotic arm contacted the “Bennu” and inserted 5 cm below the surface. But when the detector ignited and was about to leave, the robotic arm was suddenly further inserted 24 to 48 cm. Researchers said that the team did not encounter this problem in the development and testing.
At present, the probe has left “Bennu” waiting to return to Earth. Previously, NASA planned to measure the quality of samples on the 24th. However, in the face of this unexpected situation, the researchers cancelled the operation and made the decision to return the probe to Earth immediately, hoping to minimize the loss. This decision means that until the probe returns to Earth in 2023, researchers will not be able to know the quality of the samples initially collected.
According to the Associated Press, this is the first time that the United States has collected a rock sample on the surface of an asteroid. Scientists plan to collect at least 2 ounces (60 grams) of samples. This task cost more than 800 million US dollars. The asteroid “Bennu” is an ancient asteroid rich in carbon. Scientists say that studying it will help better understand how the planets of the solar system are formed.