NASA is preparing to transport and stow a large collection of surface samples from the Bennu asteroid to a sample return capsule (SRC). The space agency said Tuesday it wants to move the samples ahead of schedule to avoid further spilling out from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
A recently captured space image depicts particles of the samples spilling out of a gap on the spacecraft's Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, the mission's sample collection system. Large rocks have created an opening on TAGSAM's mylar flap, causing some particles to escape.
"The abundance of material we collected from Bennu made it possible to expedite our decision to stow,” said Dante Lauretta, who leds the OSIRIS-REx effort from the University of Arizona, Tucson.
The OSIRIS-REx team will transmit preliminary commands to the spacecraft before active stowing procedures take place. The spacecraft will return to Earth after the samples are safely sealed inside SRC.