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NASA still can’t open canister containing asteroid sample two months after discovery

NASA still can’t open canister containing asteroid sample two months after discovery

It's been over two months but they just cannot get into it

Two months after its discovery, NASA still can’t open the canister containing an asteroid sample.

So, back in September, the space agency had a special sample of rocks and dust returned to Earth after it had fired a spacecraft at asteroid Bennu.

It’s said these space rocks hold ‘clues to the origin of the solar system and can possibly answer crucial questions about how our planet came to be’, according to GIZMODO.

And that would be pretty great, if NASA could actually crack it open.

The team spent months gearing up to study this sought-after sample but now they cannot open the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) to access it.

NASA previously announced on 20 October: "In the last week, the team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston changed its approach to opening the TAGSAM head, which contained the bulk of the rocks and dust collected by the spacecraft in 2020.

"After multiple attempts at removal, the team discovered two of the 35 fasteners on the TAGSAM head could not be removed with the current tools approved for use in the OSIRIS-REx glovebox."

NASA have been unable to access the sample.
NASA/Robert Markowiz

Getting this sample should be a pretty big deal – it’s reportedly NASA’s first attempt at retrieving a sample from an asteroid in space.

So, the bits of Bennu were sealed into this container and sent down here to Earth where it has to be handled through a very specific glovebox with nitrogen to prevent any contamination.

Therefore, any tools used need to fit inside – not exactly helping with trying anything to get it open.

After two months, the team has only been able to access 70.3 grams of rocks and dust from outside and inside the sample head.

Plus, a portion of the samples were also made accessible through a mylar flap.


However, it’s really not all bad for NASA, because this actually massively surpassed the initial goal of getting 60 grams.

But there’s obviously still vital parts of the sample trapped inside the container – the total amount is estimated to be 250 grams of dust and rock.

It’s reported two of the 35 fasteners on the TAGSAM could not be removed using the tools approved as the nifty glovebox prevented that necessary access.

It’s reported that early analysis of the sample ‘found an abundance of carbon and water molecules’ and this supports the theory that ‘the building blocks of life may have made their way to Earth via asteroids’.

NASA actually stopped trying to get inside the canister back in November and are now focusing on sorting new tools to open it up.

I mean, what a nightmare to be honest – almost like getting a Christmas present you can't unwrap.

Featured Image Credit: NASA

Topics: NASA, Science, Space, Weird