NASA will try to stow away its leaking asteroid sample tomorrow

The OSIRIS-REx mission grabbed more asteroid than anticipated, and now it needs to stow the sample securely.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft which will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring a sample back to Earth for study is seen in an undated NASA artist rendering. (NASA NASA / Reuters)

Last week the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft grabbed material from the surface of an asteroid, but scientists report it grabbed so much that the collector head seems to be leaking small particles. Today NASA announced it’s moving up plans to secure what it grabbed. The maneuver was originally scheduled to take place on November 2nd, but now they’re going to do it tomorrow.

It will take several days for the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm to deposit its collector head into a capsule on the spacecraft, since the entire process is controlled manually and it’s so far away from the Earth that signals take over 18 minutes to transmit one way.

The team also mentioned they’ve updated the process to include an imaging sequence “to observe the material escaping from the collector head and verify that no particles hinder the stowage process.” Should be simple enough, right?