NASA revealed how much asteroid rock the OSIRIS-REx apparatus collected in space

After the stubborn sample container was finally broken open, NASA was able to weigh the full amount of asteroid pieces captured by the spacecraft more than three years ago.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft returned a total of 121.6 grams of material from the asteroid Bennu, more than double the mission’s target, NASA said Thursday.

The agency had previously collected black dust and debris from the container’s dashboard, as well as some of the material from inside using tweezers or a spatula—a total of 70.3 grams. After removing the TAGSAM head, where the bulk of the asteroid samples were stored, the remaining sample was poured into wedge-shaped containers and weighed – 51.2 grams. Combined with additional particles collected separately, the total weight is more than double the 60 grams required for the mission.

The OSIRIS-REx mission launched in September 2016 and reached the asteroid Bennu in December 2018. In October 2020, the spacecraft took rock samples, and in May 2021, it headed back to Earth. In September 2023, he dropped a container with samples in the Utah desert, but NASA had problems retrieving the contents.

It was not possible to remove two of the 35 screws on the TAGSAM head, which prevented the removal of the main sample located there. By that time, there was already enough bonus material, but NASA did not give up trying to get the stone fragments sealed inside.

In November, the team began developing new tools suitable for use in the sample container, and finally opened the TAGSAM head on January 10.

Fragments of the asteroid will be distributed among 230 scientists from different countries to study Bennu’s composition in detail. NASA will retain at least 70% of the sample at the Johnson Space Center for future research using advanced technologies. Some of the breed will also be on public display at the Smithsonian Institution, Space Center Houston and the University of Arizona.