Osiris Sample: All Buttoned Up — And Heading Home, Come March 2021…

The departure window, from the vicinity of Bennu, opens on March 22, 2021 — which is to say, the shortest gravity assisted path back to Earth will be in alignment, by then. And OSIRIS will gracefully turn about on her heels, and head for home.

So now, with the over-flowing container of dust, rocks and regolith from Bennu tucked snugly in the belly of its Earth side lander tub. . . OSIRIS-REx will just float along — essentially idling (as we almost all are here on the lil’ blue dot, during the ongoing COVID-19 “minimal movements” duration), in neutral — before firing its engines for home around March 22, 2021. The mission has come off completely without a hiccup thus far. Current-, and future- generations of astro-geologists will now have a pristine and copious sample of what the first few million years’ worth of our solar system’s cooled, rocky raw materials looked like — all buttoned up, by early-2024 (assuming a routine parachuted drop in, for a NASA Earth side ocean pick up).

Here’s this afternoon’s confirm, announcing and celebrating it all — from NASA / Goddard Space Center:

. . .On the afternoon of Oct. 28, following the backout check, the mission team sent commands to disconnect the two mechanical parts on the TAGSAM arm that connect the sampler head to the arm. The spacecraft first cut the tube that carried the nitrogen gas that stirred up the sample through the TAGSAM head during sample collection, and then separated the collector head from the TAGSAM arm itself.

That evening, the spacecraft completed the final step of the sample stowage process –closing the SRC. To secure the capsule, the spacecraft closed the lid and then fastened two internal latches. As of late Oct. 28, the sample of Bennu is safely stored and ready for its journey to Earth.

“I’m very thankful that our team worked so hard to get this sample stowed as quickly as they did,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “Now we can look forward to receiving the sample here on Earth and opening up that capsule.”

The stowage process, originally scheduled to begin in early November, was expedited after sample collection when the mission team received images that showed the spacecraft’s collector head overflowing with material. The images indicated that the spacecraft collected well over 2 ounces (60 grams) of Bennu’s surface material, and that some of these particles appeared to be slowly escaping from the head. A mylar flap designed to keep the sample inside the head appeared to be wedged open by some larger rocks. Now that the head is secure inside the SRC, pieces of the sample will no longer be lost.

The OSIRIS-REx team will now focus on preparing the spacecraft for the next phase of the mission – Earth Return Cruise. The departure window opens in March 2021 for OSIRIS-REx to begin its voyage home, and the spacecraft is targeting delivery of the SRC to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023. . . .

Onward. . . with lil’ munchkins to walk, in distanced celebrations. . . and visions of wild turkeys trotting by. . . now six ago. . . grinning; eight ago, as well. We will await the return of this graceful voyager.

नमस्ते

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