A NASA space probe built by Lockheed Martin landed on the surface of a near-Earth asteroid Tuesday to take a physical sample using the craft’s robotic arm.
OSIRIS-REx deployed its Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism technology to touch Bennu’s rocky surface and fired a nitrogen gas canister to obtain material from the planetary remnant, the company said Tuesday.
“Our nation has explored the solar system and landed on multiple bodies, but this is the first time we have attempted to collect a sample of an asteroid,” said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of commercial civil space at Lockheed.
The team will use various methods to measure the collected material and stow TAGSAM’s head once it harvests the target amount.
NASA intends for the spacecraft to collect up to 4.4 pounds of regolith during the mission before leaving Bennu in March next year and head back to Earth with samples by Sept.24, 2023.
Lockheed manages the spacecraft from a facility near Denver.