While not releasing much information, NASA Johnson Spaceflight Center in Texas said that on Tuesday, Sept. 26, they opened OSIRIS-REx's asteroid-sample canister for the first time in seven years, two days after the capsule containing it landed in the Utah desert.
“A scientific treasure box.”
Scientists gasped as the lid was lifted from the #OSIRISREx asteroid sample return canister, showing dark powder and sand-sized particles on the inside of the lid and base.
Photo of the capsule inside the glove box/sterile container where it's currently contained. The "dark powder" is visible facing the camera on the base in front of and all along the right side of the container where the cover closes. Image credit: NASA, from the JSC's new facility for this mission.
Johnson houses the world’s largest collection of astromaterials, and curation experts there will perform the intricate disassembly of the Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) to get down to the bulk sample within. These operations are happening in a new laboratory designed specifically for the OSIRIS-REx mission. The aluminum lid was removed inside a glovebox designed to enable working with the large piece of hardware.
When the TAGSAM is separated from the canister, it will be inserted in a sealed transfer container to preserve a nitrogen environment for up to about two hours. This container allows enough time for the team to insert the TAGSAM into another unique glovebox. Ultimately, this speeds up the disassembly process. There is a very high level of focus from the team — the sample will be revealed with an amazing amount of precision to accommodate delicate hardware removal so as not to come into contact with the sample inside.
Ultimately, researchers will be studying this sample for years, if not
decades, and the portions not being analyzed will be kept in the dry nitrogen
atmosphere. NASA will unveil the Bennu sample to the public on Oct. 11
at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), 17 days after the capsule returned, during a webcast event at