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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
Updated Nov 16, 2020 - Science

SpaceX launches new crew of astronauts for NASA

The Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Japan's Soichi Noguchi are on their way to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The crewed launch marks the second time SpaceX has launched people to orbit for NASA and the mission is expected to be the first of many regular flights like this to the space station.

3 hours ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Nursing homes are still getting pummeledU.S. could hit herd immunity by end of summer 2021 if Americans embrace virus vaccines, Fauci says.
  2. Politics: Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework.
  3. World: U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for mass rollout — Putin says Russia will begin large-scale vaccination next week.
  4. Business: Investors are finally starting to take their money out of safe-haven Treasuries.
  5. Sports: The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight.