The NASA spacecraft that landed with great difficulty on the asteroid Bennu on Wednesday after two years and picked up debris there, appears to be losing small particles of that material. The American space agency has announced this at an additional press conference.
The asteroid is located 333 million kilometers from Earth. Space probe Osiris-Rex collected about 400 grams of material, more than NASA expected. But the grab arm has landed on the asteroid with so much force that rocks have become trapped around the lid of the container where the debris is kept. As a result, small particles now leak into space.
“We think we are losing material. More than I would like,” said mission chief scientist Dante Lauretta. About 5 to 10 grams of grit would have leaked out by now. “The good news is we have a lot of material.”
An attempt is now being made to secure as much of the space debris as possible. This is done in a special capsule on board the probe.
The mission is considered successful if it succeeds in bringing at least 60 grams of Bennu’s dust to Earth. The probe will not land back on Earth until 2023.