Here's how NASA will collect asteroid samples to reach Earth

“We are looking for a sandy beach, with pebbles on it. Without big obstacles or big boulders. ” – said Estelle Chirch, Lochhead Martin's deputy head of the spacecraft arm, called TAGSAM (Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism). .

The ideal landing spot will have a clear zone at least 25 meters (82 feet) in radius, with rocks no more than two inches (0.7 inch) in diameter.

"We need a very large TAGSAM site because we do not know exactly where we are moving it and need suitable sample sizes," the church explained in an interview with Seeker.

Related: The ancient asteroid Neptune shines beyond the early universe

When the time is right, the spaceship will approach Bennu with an arm extended. Once the arm touches the surface, the nitrogen gas mechanism will dissipate the dust. Then the dust should have a pattern "on top" attached to the arm. The arm includes a pogo stick mechanism that spans the spaceship rapidly away from Bennu, similar to how floating astronauts use their arms or legs to jump off the wall.

The spacecraft will perform this one-touch and three-step procedures until the sample is locked up and departs to Earth, in 2023, before it arrives on time. It is a bit different from how Japan's Hayabusa2 asteroid material will be selected in 2020 in Itokawa. That mission will be to use a sampling trumpet to burn materials after the spacecraft fires at the surface to fire particles, the church said.

While the TAGSAM role-playing role hasn’t happened for several years, the church team wants to make sure the arm is ready. In late October, he successfully tried arm movement for the first time in space. The next big step is scheduled for Wednesday (November 14), when the arm's full range of motion and imaging capabilities will be tested.

The church called the test "a very important and exciting stage for Lockheed Martin." Of course, if the arm is working as planned, it would also be an important milestone for NASA. This mission will be the first time the agency has tested its own asteroid sample material on Earth.