A Nasa probe sent to collect rockfrom an asteroid several hundred million kilometres from Earth has grabbed so much that samples are spilling out.Pictures beamed back to Earth show a rock has wedged open the door of a container and a fraction of the sample is leaking, says NASA. Nasa is now trying to stow it safely.
“A substantial fraction of the required collected mass is seen escaping,” head of mission Dante Lauretta said. The craft is believed to have collected some 400g (14oz) of fragments, he added. “My big concern now is that the particles are escaping because we were almost a victim of our own success here.”he said.
“Time is of the essence,” Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa’s associate administrator for science, told reporters as the space agency focuses on making sure no more is lost.
Osiris-Rex touched down on Tuesday on 500m-wide Bennu, some 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) from Earth. It kicked up debris and dust when it took the samples from the asteroid’s surface.
Scientists hope the mission will throw light on how the Solar System began 4.5 billion years ago, once the samples are examined when the spacecraft returns home in 2023. Asteroids contain debris from the formation of the Solar System.
The spacecraft launched in 2016 and begins its journey back to Earth next March.