Officials said on Wednesday that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft smashed rocks and scattered the rubble when it briefly touched the asteroid, which strongly indicated that samples had been collected and returned to Earth.

Until next week, scientists will not know how much they have collected on the asteroid Bennu, and they need at least a few cosmic rubble. But the close-up photos and videotapes of Tuesday’s “Push-to-Talk” operation gave people hope to achieve this goal.

Dante Lauretta, the chief scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said: “We did make the surface of this asteroid chaotic, but it was a good mess, the kind of chaos we hoped for. .”

This is the first time that the United States has sampled an asteroid. It was carried out four years after the spacecraft lifted off the Cape Canaveral rocket and two years after it arrived at Bennu. Japan has sampled asteroids twice.

The carbon-rich Bennu is a time capsule, believed to contain the original structure of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago, so it can help scientists better understand the origin of the earth and life.

The OSIRIS-REx score is close to the bullseye, and its robotic arm reaches within one yard (meter) of the target area located in the center of the boulder-shaped Nightingale Crater. Officials said that the sampling container on the arm was in contact with the black fragile terrain for about six seconds and pushed at least three-quarters of an inch (2 cm) into the ground, crushing a large rock in the process.

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According to the plan, pressurized nitrogen gas will be sprayed to the surface in one second to spray debris so that the spacecraft can absorb as much dust and as many pebbles as possible.

The spacecraft retreated quickly, and by Wednesday it was safe to be 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Bennu.

Several hours passed before the pictures started pouring in. Lauretta said he didn’t start until early Wednesday morning and was happy with what he saw. He watched the push-to-go video about 100 times, “so cool”, and fell asleep.

He said: “I dreamt of a magical world of Bennu particles floating around me.”

In the next few days, the camera on the spacecraft will be aimed at the sampler at the end of the robot arm to look for signs of asteroid debris. If the lighting is correct, the camera can even peer into the sample room. The spacecraft will also slowly rotate to extend its arms to measure precious payloads more accurately.

According to these images, “Sampling activities are going very well, as we can imagine, and I think the chances of having materials inside are increasing…” Lauretta said.

If less than 2 ounces (60 grams) are collected, the team must decide whether to retry before October 30. The second attempt will not be made in another location until January.

The plan requires OSIRIS-REx to leave Bennu in March, which will allow the sample to enter the touchdown in the Utah desert in 2023.

Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA’s scientific mission, warned: “We are far from the end.

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