June 12, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

NASA has finally discovered "black box" with samples of asteroid Bennu

Three months after receiving the first samples of the asteroid Bennu, the US space agency finally managed to open the container in which, as expected, the “real treasure” was hidden.

Data expected from analysis of the capsule’s contents will provide a major test of the theory that asteroids brought the first fragments of life to Earth. So far, only Japan has brought such samples to Earth. Engineers were able to unscrew jammed bolts holding the lid of the TAGSAM container containing soil samples from the asteroid Bennu.

Two of the 32 screws holding sealed samples from the OSIRIS-REx mission could not be removed, and the agency has been on hold since December until two new multi-component tools were developed. Now, with their help, steps are being taken to complete the disassembly of the complex mechanism so that the rest of the samples can be extracted.

Mission engineers they couldn’t just use a power saw, since the alien material had remained unchanged for billions of years, and the canister had to be opened inside a transparent cube with a protective atmosphere. Difficulties arose due to the fact that the module is located in a “clean zone”, where engineers are forced to work through silicone glove sleeves so as not to contaminate the samples with earthly air. In addition, the container is equipped with a security system, which also complicated the task.

In a special laboratory set up at the Johnson Space Center to collect samples, technicians managed to collect only 70 grams of black dustaccumulated outside the container (pictured above), as well as part of the contents that they managed to pull out with special tongs.


The container will remain sealed until “certain additional disassembly steps” are completed, after which the hidden treasure will be photographed and weighed, the agency said.

Asteroids can provide important information about the evolution of the solar system because they were created from material left over from the formation of planets 4.6 billion years ago. Already the first analyzes of available material indicate that Bennu contains abundant organic materials and significant amounts of waterlocked in grains of clay material.

These findings need to be confirmed, but they seem to support the theory that the ocean water came from asteroids that bombarded the Earth. Along with water, they probably brought organic compounds necessary for the evolution of life.

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