Houston, We Have an Asteroid: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Sample Capsule Arrives at Johnson Space Center

OSIRIS-REx Sample Canister on U.S. Air Force C-17 Aircraft

A shipping container with the canister of asteroid Bennu sample is strapped down onboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft. The sample canister, along with disassembled capsule components and environmental samples from Utah, was transported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on September 25, 2023 – one day after landing in the Utah desert. Credit: NASA/ Molly Wasser.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center received the first U.S. asteroid sample from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on September 24. Scientists will soon analyze the sample from asteroid Bennu, with results to be shared in a live broadcast on October 11.

The first U.S. asteroid sample, delivered by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to Earth on September 24, has arrived at its permanent home at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it will be cared for, stored, and distributed to scientists worldwide.

Today, the sample arrived in Houston at 12:40 pm ET (11:40 am CT) aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft, which landed at Ellington Field. From there, it was transferred to NASA Johnson.

Preparation at the Clean Room

The team will spend the next few weeks in the clean room at Johnson built exclusively for Bennu samples. The clean room includes custom glove boxes built to fit the sample canister containing the TAGSAM (Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) head inside. The TAGSAM head was on the end of a robotic arm that collected rocks and dust from asteroid Bennu’s surface on October 20, 2020.

NASA JSC OSIRIS-REx Sample Clean Room

The new OSIRIS-REx sample clean room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. This photo was taken on June 22, 2023. Credit: NASA/James Blair

Extraction and Examination Procedures

Having practiced these procedures for months, scientists and technicians plan to proceed through the many steps of removing the sample from the TAGSAM. First, they plan to place the canister in the glove box and disassemble it. Then, they plan to remove the TAGSAM head, where scientists expect most of the sample to be, cataloging and storing every piece of hardware and asteroid dust found outside of it.

Researchers plan to analyze asteroid dust from the initial disassembly for an early glimpse into the chemical, mineralogical, and physical characteristics and rock types that may be found in the bulk sample.

Public Sharing of Findings

NASA plans to share these initial findings, plus first images of the sample, in a live broadcast on October 11.

Be the first to comment on "Houston, We Have an Asteroid: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Sample Capsule Arrives at Johnson Space Center"

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.