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New images show NASA spacecraft's historic landing and sample collection on asteroid


New images taken by the OSIRIS-REx mission show the historic first touchdown of a NASA spacecraft on the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft collected a sample that will be returned to Earth in 2023.

 


In the images, which were stitched together to show the spacecraft touching down, the spacecraft's robotic arm appeared to crush some of the porous rocks on the surface. A nitrogen gas bottle fired on the surface appeared to stir up a substantial amount of material in a "rubble shower." The spacecraft then spent five seconds collecting that material before backing away.

 


The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is in "good health" after the event which occurred on Tuesday, according to the mission's team. Data and images were sent back by the spacecraft overnight and shared by the agency on Wednesday.

 


Data from the spacecraft shows it touched down within 3 feet of the targeted location -- all while the spacecraft autonomously worked through commands sent ahead of time, using its advanced navigation system to help it land without assistance from Earth due to a 18.5-minute communication delay.

 


This graphic shows the spot where the spacecraft touched down on the asteroid.

 

Although all of the data sent back by the spacecraft so far indicates that everything happened as planned during the "Touch-and-Go" event, called TAG, it will take the mission teams about a week to determine how much of a sample was collected by the spacecraft.

 

The required amount for the sample is about 60 grams -- about a full-size candy bar -- but the capsule can hold up to 2 kilograms of material from the asteroid's surface.

 

Since launching in 2016, the mission has been filled with surprises and firsts, challenging its team to think on their feet as the asteroid revealed information that ultimately changed how NASA would attempt its first collection of a sample from an asteroid.

 

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