For the Second Time Ever, an Asteroid Sample Returns to Earth

Early on Sunday morning, the skies above a secluded military complex in central Australia will be brightened by a fireball plummeting to Earth. It will be a flamboyant homecoming for the sample return capsule from Hayabusa2, a Japanese spacecraft launched almost exactly six years ago on a mission to shoot an ancient asteroid and steal some of its dirt. If the capsule survives its fiery descent, its payload of pristine space rock will help scientists understand the earliest days of our solar system, shed light on the mysterious origins of meteorites, and may even provide clues about the emergence of life on Earth.

By the time it lands under parachute in the Australian outback, the sample will have traveled more than 180 million miles from Ryugu, a diamond-shaped asteroid orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. Scientists believe that Ryugu broke off from a larger parent body only a few

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NASA chooses 4 firms for first private lunar sample collection

ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 3 (UPI) — Four companies will collect moon rocks and dust on the lunar surface for NASA by 2023 in preparation for a human mission the following year, the space agency announced Thursday.

The missions would be the first time a private company has collected samples from another planetary body, and the first time ownership of an object would be transferred beyond Earth orbit, according to NASA.

The companies are Lunar Outpost, based near Denver; ispace Japan of Tokyo; Luxembourg-based ispace Europe and Masten Space Systems, of Mojave, Calif. All four are planning to fly equipment to the moon on missions already planned.

The sample missions are intended only to provide a “proof of concept” to show NASA how a private company would collect samples. The missions also will test a legal framework for turning over ownership of such samples on the moon, said Phil McAlister, the

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China says spacecraft successfully lands on moon for historic sample collection

The Chinese government says a robot probe launched to return lunar rocks to Earth has landed on the moon. The official China News Service said the Chang’e 5 “successfully landed on the moon in the pre-selected landing area.” It gave no more details.

The probe adds to a string of increasingly ambitious missions by a Chinese space program that aims eventually to land a human on the moon.

china-moon.jpg
This animation released by China Central Television (CCTV) shows Chang’e-5 probe flying to moon.

CCTV via Reuters


The spacecraft is expected to collect about 4 pounds of rock and soil samples, and return them to Earth for laboratory analysis.

If successful, the Chang’e 5 mission will make China only the third nation, after the United States and the former Soviet Union, to bring moon rocks back to Earth.

The Chang’e 5 flight is China’s third successful lunar landing. Its predecessor, Chang’e 4,

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Law firm claims stake in tape strips used to lift moon dust off Apollo 11 sample bag

A Kansas City law firm has filed suit over what it claims is its financial stake in five small strips of possibly-moon-dust-stained carbon tape, extending an already complicated — and, at times, convoluted — legal saga that has surrounded a white zippered pouch that was used on the first moon landing mission 51 years ago.

The defendant, an Illinois real estate attorney who sold the Apollo 11 lunar sample return bag for $1.8 million, succinctly characterized the situation in the first line of a court filing with regard to the law firm of Wyrsch Hobbs Mirakian (WHM) and its attempt to enforce a lien on the tape strips.

“The story underlying this matter and other related litigated matters is long,” the attorneys for Nancy Lee Carlson wrote in a motion that was filed with the District Court of Kansas in March.

Lunar legacy: 45 Apollo moon mission photos

An
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Independent panel recommends delaying Mars Sample Return missions

WASHINGTON — An independent review panel created by NASA to examine its plans to return samples from Mars endorsed the overall campaign, but recommended that the agency delay two upcoming missions to provide a more realistic development schedule.

NASA established the Independent Review Board (IRB) in August to provide an outside assessment of its overall Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign, which started with the launch of the Mars 2020 mission in July. That mission’s Perseverance rover will cache samples of Martian rock and soil that will be returned to Earth no earlier than 2031 by two subsequent missions that NASA is planning in cooperation with the European Space Agency.

The board, in a report released Nov. 10, supported the overall effort. “We unanimously believe that the Mars Sample Return program should proceed,” David Thompson, former chief executive of Orbital ATK and chair of the board, said in a call with

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Review board says NASA, ESA ready to pursue Mars sample return mission

Nov. 10 (UPI) — In a newly released report, an independent group of scientists and space policy experts offered NASA and the European Space Agency the green light to pursue a Mars Sample Return campaign.

“Full steam ahead,” Maria Zuber, Independent Review Board member and vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said during a teleconference on Tuesday.

The review board considered the value of such a mission, as well as the campaign’s risks and technical requirements.

“We unanimously agree that NASA and ESA are now ready to carry out a Mars Sample Return, and that the mission has extraordinary potential for world-changing scientific discoveries,” said David Thompson, MSR IRB chair and retired president of Orbital ATK.

“That being said, we also recognize that Mars Sample Return is also an extremely ambitious and technically demanding mission,” Thompson said.

To meet help NASA meet those technical demands, the

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NASA Invites Media to Briefing on Mars Sample Return Independent Review Board Report

NASA Invites Media to Briefing on Mars Sample Return Independent Review Board Report

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2020

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — NASA will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Tuesday, Nov. 10, to discuss the findings and recommendations of the report by an agency-commissioned independent board about NASA’s plans with ESA (European Space Agency) for a Mars Sample Return mission.

NASA Logo. (PRNewsFoto/NASA) (PRNewsFoto/) (PRNewsfoto/NASA)
NASA Logo. (PRNewsFoto/NASA) (PRNewsFoto/) (PRNewsfoto/NASA)

NASA established the Mars Sample Return (MSR) Independent Review Board (IRB) to evaluate the agency’s early concepts for an international partnership with ESA to return the first samples from another planet. The report will be released at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, on the agency’s Reports and Transcripts webpage and includes the MSR IRB’s findings and recommendations and NASA’s responses.

During the teleconference, NASA science leadership and MSR IRB members will discuss the IRB’s findings and

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Probe Successfully Stows Space-Rock Sample

NASA’s pioneering OSIRIS-REx probe has bagged up its precious asteroid sample for return to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx has finished stowing the bits of the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu that it snagged last Tuesday (Oct. 20), successfully locking the material into the spacecraft’s return capsule, mission team members announced Thursday (Oct. 29).

And the sample appears to be substantial—far heftier than the 2.1 ounces (60 grams) the mission had set as a target, team members said. Indeed, OSIRIS-REx collected so much material on Oct. 20 that its sampling head couldn’t close properly; the head’s sealing mylar flap was wedged open in places by protruding Bennu pebbles.

The OSIRIS-REx team noticed that issue last week when examining photos of the head and its collected sample; flakes of escaped asteroid material drifted through the frames. To minimize the amount lost, the team decided to expedite the precise and complex stowing procedure, which was supposed to

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Goes for Early Stow of Asteroid Sample

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Goes for Early Stow of Asteroid Sample

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2020

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is ready to perform an early stow on Tuesday, Oct. 27, of the large sample it collected last week from the surface of the asteroid Bennu to protect and return as much of the sample as possible.

This illustration shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft stowing the sample it collected from asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20, 2020. The spacecraft will use its Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm to place the TAGSAM collector head into the Sample Return Capsule (SRC).
This illustration shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft stowing the sample it collected from asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20, 2020. The spacecraft will use its Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm to place the TAGSAM collector head into the Sample Return Capsule (SRC).

On Oct. 22, the OSIRIS-REx mission team received images that showed the spacecraft’s collector head overflowing with material collected from Bennu’s surface – well over the two-ounce (60-gram) mission requirement – and that some of these particles appeared to be slowly escaping from the

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NASA grabs sample of asteroid Bennu that’s so big some bits are escaping

NASA’s asteroid-chaser Osiris-Rex completed a key part of its mission this week by managing to nab some rocks from the surface of the potentially hazardous asteroid Bennu, NASA reported Friday.



The spacecraft's sampling arm, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, over the target sample site during a dress rehearsal in April. NASA


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The spacecraft’s sampling arm, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, over the target sample site during a dress rehearsal in April. NASA

The spacecraft traveled over 200 million miles and four years to briefly bump into Bennu, blast it with compressed gas and collect bits of its surface. The space agency on Wednesday shared the first batch of images from the daring operation, revealing a delicate-yet-explosive moment between rock and robot.

When the spacecraft’s robotic sampling arm, named Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism,  or Tagsam, touched down on Bennu, it performed what amounts to a cosmic pickpocketing maneuver.  Mission planners expected that the total time of contact between the arm and asteroid would be less than 16

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