NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft successfully made contact with asteroid Bennu on Tuesday. The purpose of the brief touch-and-go, the first of its kind accomplished by NASA, was to collect a sample from the asteroid’s surface. Sample collection was conducted using a sampling arm, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), which fired a burst of nitrogen gas to stir up dust and pebbles for the collection mechanism to capture.
“After over a decade of planning, the team is overjoyed at the success of today’s sampling attempt,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Even though we have some work ahead of us to determine the outcome of the event—the successful contact, the TAGSAM gas firing, and back-away from Bennu are major accomplishments for the team. I look forward to analyzing the data to determine the mass of sample collected.”
According to NASA, it will take about a week to confirm that the sample collected meets the 60-gram minimum the team is aiming for. If not, a second collection attempt will be made in January. OSIRIS-REx was launched on Sept. 8, 2016, and is expected to return to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023. Bennu is currently more than 200 million miles from Earth.