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Particles of the asteroid floating around the sampling arm. Photo: NASA

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was able to snag a large sample of the asteroid Bennu, but some of that material is now escaping into space, forcing the space agency to adjust its plans to get the sample back to Earth.

Why it matters: Scientists hope to study the sample back on our planet to learn more about the history and evolution of our solar system over the course of billions of years.

The good: The sample collection on Tuesday went according to plan, per mission managers.

  • Scientists expect that the sampler was able to grab at least the 60 grams required for the mission.
  • There is "definitely evidence of hundreds of grams of material, and possibly more," the mission's principal investigator, Dante Lauretta, said during a press conference Friday.

The bad: Some of the material gathered has jammed open the system, allowing part of the sample to be lost.

  • "My big concern now is that the particles are escaping because we were almost a victim of our own success here," Lauretta said.

What's next: Mission officials were originally going to spin the spacecraft to figure out how much sample was collected on Saturday, but that maneuver has been deemed too risky as it could lead to more sample loss.

  • Instead mission managers are now planning to store the sample to make sure that very little mass continues to escape before OSIRIS-REx can start its long journey home next week.
  • If all goes according to plan, the sample should make it back to Earth by 2023.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

Axiom announces the crew for its first private ISS mission

Earth from space. Photo: NASA

An American entrepreneur, Canadian investor and Israeli investor, along with a former NASA astronaut, are set to make up the first fully private mission to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The flight — expected to launch in January 2022 — represents part of NASA's bid to create an economy in low-Earth orbit supported by private companies.

Burnout, money, concern drive Harris turnover

Vice President Kamala Harris and another potential 2024 presidential candidate, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, appeared together Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Burnout, better opportunities and concern about being permanently branded a "Harris person" is driving some of the turnover in Vice President Kamala Harris's office, people familiar with the situation tell Axios.

Why it matters: Harris is not only a heartbeat from the presidency but, by virtue of her office, the presumed 2024 frontrunner if President Biden doesn't seek re-election. There's been an inordinate amount of disarray — and, now, turnover — throughout her tenure.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."