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.
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.