You might think that grabbing a scoop of dirt from an orbiting space rock and returning it to Earth would be the most complicated part of an asteroid sample collection mission, but the real challenge is actually opening that sample container once. It returned home. It takes more than three months, but Its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft says it has finally removed two stuck fasteners blocking access to much of the material collected from asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx dropped the sample on September 24 before examining another asteroid, Apophis.
Although NASA discovered the exterior of the Touch-and-Go-Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), its internal contents were locked due to problems with two of the 35 fasteners holding the container shut. TAGSAM is kept in a special glove box to prevent sample contamination, and only certain instruments are allowed to be used with it. None of the existing tools worked to remove the stubborn fasteners from the TAGSAM head, so the team had to create new ones.
„To preserve the scientific value of the asteroid sample, in addition to the design challenge of being limited to curation-approved materials, these new instruments must operate within the tightly defined space of a glove box, limiting their height, weight and ability to arc motion,” said Dr. Nicole Luning, OSIRIS-REx supervisor. Now With the TAGSAM leader freed, the team can move forward with extracting the container — meaning they can soon see what's inside. NASA's initial assessment of the dust and rocks outside TAGSAM found evidence of carbon and water.