Sept. 24 was a big day for NASA, when an orange-and-white capsule containing pieces of an asteroid landed on Earth, charred from its ultrahigh-speed fall through our atmosphere. The asteroid in question, named Bennu, is thought to have been roaming space since the early days of our solar system — meaning these samples could reveal to us what our cosmic neighborhood looked like way before we got here.
Shot into space as part of the agency’s OSIRIS-REx mission in 2016, the capsule was enclosed for years within a spacecraft that made a 4-billion-mile-long journey to reach Bennu. Once on the asteroid‘s surface, it then extended an arm that briefly touched down on the rock in order to retrieve a little bit of its material.
The hope, scientists had said, was to collect at least 60 grams of Bennu‘s material — and, on Monday (Oct. 23), the OSIRIS-REx team announced the mighty spacecraft managed to retrieve far more. Far. More.
Related: NASA’s 1st asteroid sample is rich in carbon and water, OSIRIS-REx team finds
According to a NASA blog post, the curation team that’s been processing the samples says it has removed and collected 70.3 grams (2.48 ounces) of Bennu material from the capsule so far — and it hasn’t even actually been opened yet. Those 70.3 grams come from just the area on the outside (and part of the inside) of the sample collector’s head.
“The sample processed so far includes the rocks and dust found on the outside of the sampler head, as well as a portion of the bulk sample from inside the head, which was accessed through the head’s mylar flap,” the post states. “Additional material remaining inside the sampler head, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM, is set for removal later, adding to the mass total.”…