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NASA probe leaking asteroid samples due to jammed door - Al Jazeera English
Images beamed back to ground control revealed it caught more material than scientists anticipated.
A US probe that collected a sample from an asteroid earlier this week retrieved so much material that a rock is wedged in the container door, allowing rocks to spill back out into space. On Tuesday, the robotic arm of the probe, OSIRIS-REx, kicked up a debris cloud of rocks on Bennu, a skyscraper-sized asteroid some 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) from Earth and trapped the material in a collection device for the return to Earth. But images of the spacecrafts collection head beamed back to ground control revealed it had caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing an excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space. The leakage had the OSIRIS-REx mission team scrambling to stow the collection device to prevent additional spillage. Time is of the essence, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASAs associate administrator for science, told reporters on Friday. Zurbuchen said mission teams will skip their chance to measure how much material they collected as originally planned and proceed to the stow phase, a fragile process of tucking the sample collection container in a safe position within the spacecraft without jostling out more valuable material. Good news: on Oct. 20, our @OSIRISREx spacecraft captured more than enough material from asteroid Bennu to meet mission requirements! The team is now focused on stowing the sample for return to Earth in 2023: https://t.co/4etvnJzXfn#ToBennuAndBackpic.twitter.com/ILUzEJZHD8 NASA (@NASA) October 23, 2020 NASA will not know how much material it collected until the sample capsule returns in 2023. The troubleshooting also led mission leaders to forgo any more chances of redoing a collection attempt and instead commit to begin next March the spacecrafts return to Earth. Quite honestly, we could not have performed a better collection experiment, OSIRIS-RExs principal investigator Dante Lauretta said. But with the door lodged open by a rock and the concerning images of sample spillage, were almost the victim of our own success here, he added. The roughly $800m, minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, launched in 2016 to grab and return the first US sample of pristine asteroid materials. Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar systems formation some 4.5 billion years ago. A sample could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.
Clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh after Washington talks - Al Jazeera English
Azerbaijan reported fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh despite Pompeo holding talks with both sides in the US.
Clashes broke out between Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces over Nagorno-Karabakh a day after talks in Washington, DC to try to end the deadliest fighting in the mountain enclave in more than a quarter of a century. Azerbaijans Ministry of Defence reported on Friday that there was fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a part of Azerbaijan that is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians. On October 23 and 24, operations continued in the Aghdere, Khojavend, Fizuli, Hadrut, and Gubadli directions, the ministry was quoted as saying by Turkeys state-run Anadolu Agency. The defence ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh said on Saturday that the number of Armenian troops killed in the latest conflict in the region that began on September 27 had risen by 36 to 963, the Interfax news agency reported. The latest heavy shelling forced residents of Stepanakert, the regional capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, into shelters, as emergency teams rushed to extinguish fires. Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said other towns in the region were also targeted by Azerbaijani artillery fire. Al Jazeeras Rory Challands, reporting from Goris in Armenia, said there was an Azeri attack on Stepanakert late on Friday night. Sirens went off at approximately 9pm [17:00 GMT] in the city and a short while later, volleys of rockets or missiles came raining down, he said. Because of the sirens, people hid in shelters. There was no report of causalities. Officials in Azerbaijan claimed that the town of Terter and areas in the Gubadli region came under Armenian shelling early Saturday, killing a teenager. They said that a 13-year-old boy died on Saturday of wounds he received in an earlier shelling of Ganja, Azerbaijans second-largest city. On Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met separately foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in a new attempt to end nearly a month of bloodshed that Russian President Vladimir Putin said may have killed 5,000 people. The collapse of two Russia-brokered truces had already dimmed the prospect of a quick end to fighting that broke out on September 27. Azeri forces say they have made territorial gains, including full control over the border with Iran, which Armenia denies. Nagorno-Karabakhs ethnic Armenian administration says its forces have repulsed attacks. President Ilham Aliyev told French newspaper Le Figaro that Azerbaijan was ready to sit down for negotiations but blamed Armenias actions for the continued hostilities. We are ready to stop even today, Aliyev was quoted as saying. But, unfortunately, Armenia grossly violated the ceasefire if they dont stop, we will go to the end with the aim of liberating all the occupied territories. Both sides accuse each other of targeting civilians during the conflict [File: AP] US President Donald Trump said good progress was made on the issue but did not elaborate and declined to say if he had spoken with the leaders of either country. Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan told reporters talks with Pompeo were very good, adding that work on a ceasefire would continue. World powers want to prevent a wider war that draws in Turkey, which has voiced strong support for Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia. Shortly before the Washington talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul that he hoped Moscow and Ankara could work together on resolving the conflict. Differences over the conflict have further strained relations between Ankara and its NATO allies, with Pompeo accusing Turkey of stoking the conflict by arming the Azeri side. Ankara denies it has inflamed the conflict. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he saw no diplomatic resolution of the conflict at this stage, and Aliyev has described the prospects of a peace settlement as very remote.
Pakistan to remain on global terror financing ‘grey’ list - Al Jazeera English
Financial Action Task Force praises Pakistan for progress, but decides to keep it on its watch list.
Pakistan will remain on a terrorism financing watch list until it completely implements a set of preventive guidelines, a global watchdog said, urging Islamabad to improve financial controls. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body, praised Pakistan for progress on 21 of 27 recommendations but said the rest must also be implemented. Last February, Pakistan secured an extra four months to complete the plan after missing 13 of the 27 targets that FATF had set for it in 2018 when it put Pakistan on its grey list. The grace period was then extended again because of the coronavirus pandemic. The so-called grey list comprises countries whose controls over terrorism financing are deemed inadequate. The government of Pakistan has signalled its commitment to complete the rest of its action plan. But it is clear even though Pakistan has made progress, it needs to do more, FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer said at the conclusion of a virtual meeting in Paris on Friday to discuss global financial systems including terror financing. Pakistan cannot stop now. It needs to continue to carry out reforms, in particular to implement targeted financial sanctions and prosecute and sanction those financing terrorism. Pakistans Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said ahead of the decision that regional rival India was lobbying for downgrading the country to a more punitive blacklist. The Asia Pacific Group, a regional affiliate of the watchdog, had recommended keeping Pakistan on the grey list because there were still risks of terrorism financing going undetected. Pakistans powerful military is often accused of harbouring fighters to use them as proxies against India and neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistan had been on the FATF blacklist for years before it was removed in 2015 following significant progress in fighting terror financing. Only Iran and North Korea are currently on the blacklist. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, elected in 2018, has been struggling to stamp out threats from armed groups while coming under pressure over painful austerity measures taken to rectify a shaky economy and conform to the terms of its latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. Separately on Friday, Iceland and Mongolia were taken off FATFs list of countries under increased monitoring. The Paris-based organisation also said that fraud linked to coronavirus pandemic was on the rise, with counterfeit medical supplies, economic stimulus measures and online scams hitting governments hard around the world.
Erdogan defends testing Russian S-400, shrugs off US criticism - Al Jazeera English
Washington has threatened sanctions, arguing Ankara’s purchase of the Russian weapons system compromises NATO defences.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday confirmed Turkeys first test of a controversial Russian missile defence system, as he dismissed criticism by the United States. It is true about the tests, they have been done and will continue, he told reporters in Istanbul on Friday, a week after reports emerged of the Turkish army conducting a test firing of the S-400 system. Were not going to ask America for permission. The US State Department and Pentagon had responded furiously to reports of the test. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said last Friday that, if confirmed, Washington would consider them incompatible with Turkeys responsibilities as a NATO ally and strategic partner of the United States. Washington says Ankaras purchase of Russian S-400 systems compromises NATO defences and has threatened sanctions. Turkey faces sanctions under a 2017 law known as CAATSA, which mandates sanctions for any significant purchases of weapons from Russia. Last year, the US suspended Turkey from its F-35 jet programme. During a visit to Turkey earlier this month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the system could not be integrated into the alliances air and missile defence system. However, Ankara accuses Washington of failing to sell the USs competing Patriot missile systems and has pointed to its security needs while justifying buying the Russian system. Turkey signed the S-400 deal with Russia in 2017. Deliveries of the first four missile batteries, worth $2.5bn, began in July 2019. Turkey initially said the S-400 would be operational in April but it has since delayed activating the system. The S-400 tests come at a particularly tense time in Turkeys relationships with NATO allies the US, France and Germany after Ankara resumed gas exploration this month in waters disputed by another alliance member, Greece.
India extends high-speed internet ban in Kashmir - Al Jazeera English
Government in the disputed region says restrictions ‘absolutely necessary in the interest of Indian sovereignty’.
The government in Indian-administered Kashmir has extended its ban on high-speed internet in 18 of 20 districts of the disputed region until November 12. In an order issued on Wednesday evening, the administration in the federal territory said the restrictions on high-speed internet were felt absolutely necessary in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India. High-speed internet in the Himalayan region had been cut off since last August, when India revoked the semi-autonomous status of the Jammu and Kashmir state, divided it into two federally ruled territories and imposed a complete lockdown and communications blackout. The order said security agencies apprehended that anti-national elements might misuse high-speed connections for carrying out activities inimical to the public order besides persuading the youths to join militancy. Although some of the communications restrictions have been removed and the internet on fixed lines restored, mobile internet speed in most of the region remains painstakingly slow. Digital rights activists have consistently denounced the internet restrictions, with some calling them far worse censorship than anywhere in the world. In August, the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a prominent rights group in Indian-administered Kashmir, called the communications blackout a collective punishment against the Kashmiris and urged the international community to question New Delhi over the digital apartheid. Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have repeatedly urged India to restore full internet access in the disputed region, with the calls gaining steam amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The conflict in Indian-administered Kashmir has existed since the late 1940s when India and Pakistan won independence from the British rule and began fighting over rival claims to the Muslim-majority territory. The two rivals, who claim the Kashmir territory in full but administer parts of it, have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.
US-Russia crew back to Earth in first post-lockdown space mission - Aljazeera.com
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner touch down safely on Kazakhstan steppe.
An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts have touched down safely on the Kazakhstan steppe, completing a 196-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) that began with the first such launch under coronavirus lockdown conditions. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed approximately 150km (90 miles) southeast of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan at 02.54 GMT on Thursday, footage broadcast by the Russian space agency Roscosmos showed. Visuals from the landing site showed a seated Cassidy bumping elbows with one member of the crew at the recovery site and saluting another after they exited the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft. They were then taken to medical tents ahead of their onward journeys to Moscow and Houston. How are things? asked Cassidy in Russian, smiling. The three-man crew had blasted off minus the usual fanfare in April with around half the worlds population living under lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. They did not face questions from reporters in the Baikonur space launch facility and were not waved off by family and friends both time-honoured traditions before the pandemic. Their pre-flight quarantine was also intensified as they eschewed customary sightseeing trips to Moscow from their training base outside the Russian capital. The mission, carried out by tycoon Elon Musks SpaceX company as part of NASAs Commercial Crew Program, has helped heighten talk of a new space race between a number of countries. But Russias Roscosmos, which enjoyed a monopoly on travel to and from the space station from 2011, remains the fastest player in the game in terms of travel to and from the ISS. Robert Behnken and Doug Hurleys journey in May to the space station and return to Earth in August in the SpaceX craft saw the pair spend the best part of the two days in transit. Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagners touchdown on Thursday by contrast came less than three-and-a-half hours after undocking, while a three-person crew reached the ISS from Baikonur in just three hours and three minutes last week, setting a new absolute record. Prior to returning from his third mission in space, former US Navy SEAL Cassidy, 50, tweeted a picture of blood samples that astronauts have to submit at various points in their mission, including just before undocking. What is the price of a return ride back to Earth? 8 tubes of blood!! The 7 shown in this picture were taken in the morning to be placed in our deep freezer, and the 8th will be drawn just prior to undock for ground processing soon after landing, Sudoku puzzle fan Cassidy wrote. First-time-flyer Vagner was a rare Roscosmos presence on the micro-blogging platform, where most NASA astronauts have a profile. Mama, Im coming home, the 35-year-old tweeted on Wednesday. Ivanishin, 51, wrapped up his third mission, after NASAs Kathleen Rubins, with whom he launched to the ISS in 2016, arrived for a second stint on board the station last Wednesday along with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. The ISS has been a rare example of cooperation between Moscow and Washington. Members recently reported issues with the oxygen production system, a toilet and the oven for preparing food. But Roscosmos said in a statement on Tuesday that the issues had been fully resolved by the crew. All the systems of the station are working well and there is no danger to the crew or the ISS. Next month will mark the 20th anniversary of the orbital lab being permanently occupied by humans, but the station is expected to be decommissioned in the next 10 years due to structural fatigue.
Taliban ambush kills dozens of Afghan forces in northern province - Al Jazeera English
At least 34 security personnel, including senior police officer, killed in an attack in Takhar province, officials said.
Dozens of the members of Afghanistans security forces have been killed and many others wounded in an attack by the Taliban in the northern province of Takhar, officials said. Takhar provincial health director Abdul Qayoum told AFP news agency on Wednesday that 34 security personnel were killed in the ambush, including the provinces deputy police chief. At least eight others were wounded in the incident, which took place overnight in Baharak district, a province that is contested between the Taliban and government forces. Local politicians placed the death toll at up to 42, DPA news agency reported. Baharak is one of the districts of Takhar province, where 11 of the 16 districts have been largely controlled by Taliban fighters for years. Earlier this month, Taliban launched its first large-scale attack since the signing of a peace deal with the US in February, in Helmand province [File: Watan Yar/EPA] Fighting is still continuing and the Taliban have also suffered heavy casualties, Jawad Hejri, a spokesman for the governor of Takhar province told AFP. Hejri said the security forces had been on their way to an operation in Baharak when they were attacked by the Taliban. The Taliban had taken positions in the houses around the area. They ambushed our forces who were there for an operation against the enemy, he said. The Taliban have not commented on the attack yet. Following the Talibans campaign in Helmand, the Takhar attack is believed to be the second major offensive by the group in less than a month. Earlier this month, thousands of families were displaced by bloody conflict in the southern Helmand province. The increased violence in Afghanistan comes despite ongoing peace talks between the representatives of the government and the Taliban in Qatar that kicked off last month. The armed group has so far refused to accept a ceasefire.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx grabs rocks from asteroid in historic mission - Al Jazeera English
Scientists want at least 60 grams of Bennu’s carbon-rich material – thought to contain the building blocks of life.
A NASA spacecraft touched down on the rugged surface of the Bennu asteroid on Tuesday, grabbing a sample of rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system to bring home. It was a first for the United States only Japan has previously secured asteroid samples. The so-called Touch-And-Go manoeuvre was managed by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, where at 6.12pm (22:12 GMT) on Tuesday an announcer said: Touchdown declared. Sampling is in progress, and scientists erupted in celebration. Seconds later, the Lockheed mission operator Estelle Church confirmed the spacecraft had eased away from the space rock after making contact, announcing: Sample collection is complete and the back-away burn has executed. The historic mission was 12 years in the making and rested on a critical 16-second period where the minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft extended its 11-foot (3.35-metre) robotic arm towards a flat patch of gravel near Bennus north pole and plucked the sample of rocks NASAs first handful of pristine asteroid rocks. The probe will send back images of the sample collection on Wednesday and throughout the week so scientists can examine how much material was retrieved and determine whether the probe will need to make another collection attempt. This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu was composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on December 2, 2018 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km) [NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Handout via Reuters] Scientists want at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and, ideally, closer to 4 pounds (2 kilogrammes) of Bennus black, crumbly, carbon-rich material thought to contain the building blocks of the solar system. The asteroid is located more than 200 million miles (321.9 million kms) from Earth. NASAs science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, likened Bennu to the Rosetta Stone: Something thats out there and tells the history of our entire Earth, of the solar system, during the last billions of years. If a successful collection is confirmed, the spacecraft will begin its journey back towards Earth, arriving in 2023. Everything went just exactly perfect, Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator from the University of Arizona, Tucson, said on a NASA live feed from Lockheeds mission support building. We have overcome the amazing challenges that this asteroid has thrown at us, and the spacecraft appears to have operated flawlessly. The robotic arms collection device, shaped like an oversized shower head, is designed to release pressurised gas to kick up debris. The spacecraft launched in 2016 from Kennedy Space Center for the journey to Bennu. It has been in orbit around the asteroid for nearly two years preparing for the Touch and Go manoeuvre. Bennu, which is more than 4.5 billion years old, was selected as a target because scientists believe it is a small fragment of what was once a much larger space rock that broke off during a collision between two asteroids early on in the history of the solar system. Asteroids are like time capsules floating in space that can provide a fossil record of the birth of our solar system, Lori Glaze, NASAs director of Planetary Science, told Al Jazeera. They can provide valuable information about how planets, like our own, came to be. Thanks to data collected from orbit, the NASA team has determined two key discoveries: first, that between 5 and 10 percent of Bennus mass is water, and second, that its surface is littered with carbon-rich molecules. Atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could help scientists better understand what role asteroids played in bringing water to the Earth and seeding it with the prebiotic material that provided the building blocks for life. Studying that material could also help scientists discover whether life exists elsewhere in the solar system, as well. If this kind of chemistry is happening in the early solar system, it probably happened in other solar systems as well, Lauretta, OSIRIS-Rexs principal investigator, told Al Jazeera in an interview ahead of Tuesdays breakthrough. It helps us assess the likelihood of the origin of life occurring throughout the galaxy and, ultimately, throughout the universe. Japan expects samples from its second asteroid mission in the milligramMEs at most to land in the Australian desert in December.
Eyeing China, Australia joins ‘Quad’ drill with US, Japan, India - Al Jazeera English
Military exercises set to take place in Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea are likely to upset China.
Australia will take part in large-scale military exercises off the coast of India next month that will bring together a quartet of countries concerned by rising Chinese influence. India, Japan, the United States and for the first time since 2007 Australia will take part in this Novembers Malabar naval exercise, a move that is likely to lead to protests from China. Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said late on Monday that the drills were about demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific a allusion to countering Chinas power. Indias Ministry of Defence said the naval drill would take place in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, which has been a hotspot for Indo-Chinese strategic competition. Over the last few decades, China has tried to significantly increase influence in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, prompting acute concern in New Delhi. The drill comes at a time of diplomatic tensions between China and Australia, economic tensions between China and the US and military tensions between China and India. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Australias Foreign Minister Marise Payne ahead of the Quad meeting of four Indo-Pacific nations foreign ministers [Charly Triballeau/Pool via AFP] India and China have poured tens of thousands of troops into a remote Himalayan border zone since fighting a pitched battle in June in which 20 Indian troops and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed. The so-called Quad has been touted as a means of countering Chinese influence including a decades-long investment in modernising its army. But the grouping has often faltered amid disagreements about how much to confront, contain or engage Beijing. A renewed push to develop the Quad into a formal counterbalance to China included talks between foreign ministers in Tokyo earlier this month. At that meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Asian allies to unite against Chinas exploitation, corruption and coercion in the region.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx poised to reach out and touch an asteroid - Al Jazeera English
A carbon-rich asteroid named Bennu could contain new information about life on Earth – and elsewhere.
Imagine having to parallel park a 15-passenger van in a narrow parking spot surrounded by two-storey boulders. Then imagine doing it on an asteroid hurtling through outer space at speeds of more than 62,700 miles per hour (101,000 km/h). On Tuesday, a mission led by US space agency NASA and a team of researchers from the University of Arizona in the United States will do just that, sending commands to a small spacecraft more than 200 million miles (321.9 million kilometres) away, and guiding OSIRIS-REx to vacuum up bits of an asteroid named Bennu and bring them back to Earth. Inside those samples could be clues about the origins of life itself. Four years ago, the US space agency deployed OSIRIS-REx on a mission to explore Bennu, a primordial piece of space debris that can trace its origins back to the formation of the solar system. Now, OSIRIS-REx is poised to land on Bennus surface, making for NASAs first-ever asteroid sample return mission, and the biggest delivery of extraterrestrial material since the Apollo era of the 1960s and 70s. Its a technological feat nearly two decades in the making, and its main goal is to collect a pristine, unaltered sample from the asteroids surface. To do so, the spacecraft will utilise a special robotic arm with a collection head on the end. On Tuesday afternoon, the plucky little craft is expected to descend to Bennus surface, extend its arm and blast the asteroid with enough nitrogen gas to push surface material up into the collection head. Studying Bennu is going to help us better understand the role asteroids might play in delivering these life-forming compounds to Earth. Jamie Elsila, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center It will take OSIRIS-REx four hours to traverse the 0.6 miles (one kilometre) distance down to the surface, moving approximately 3.9 inches per second (10 centimetres per second). Once it gets close to the surface, the craft will extend its more than nine-foot-long (three-metre-long) robotic arm, called TAGSAM (or Touch-and-go Sample Acquisition Mechanism), which is topped with a sample collection device resembling a large shower head. Its designed to blow a small burst of nitrogen gas onto Bennus surface to stir up some dust and rocks. This material will then be collected in a ring around the head, which can store just about four pounds (1.8kg) of material. OSIRIS-RExs goal is to collect at least 0.13 pounds (60g) of surface material from Bennu, which may not sound like a lot, but is an incredibly tricky manoeuvre to pull off that requires extreme precision especially on a rocky, uneven surface like Bennus, where boulders can be the size of football pitches. OSIRIS-REx was launched by NASA in September 2016 to travel to Bennu. One shot OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in 2018 and meticulously mapped the asteroids surface across a two-year period to determine the best place to collect the sample. The result? A 66-foot-wide (20-metre-wide) crater near Bennus north pole that the team calls Nightingale. It was selected primarily because the crater appears to be young, which means that the exposed rock is likely to consist of pristine samples from when the asteroid was formed billions of years ago. OSIRIS-RExs collection head was designed to work best on a flat, sandy surface, which Bennu does not have. So scientists will have to aim carefully, as it could spell trouble for the mission if the arm touches down on top of rocks that are more than a few centimetres in diameter severely limiting how much material that could be collected. Also, TAGSAM only has three nitrogen bottles, so the team cant afford to waste them. The team basically has a single shot to collect as much material as they can from Nightingale crater. Thats because once the nitrogen gas is fired, the surface material is disrupted, flying hopefully up into the collection head. Its an opportunity literally years in the making. Mapping the asteroid OSIRIS-REx has two key tools that will help the spacecraft determine if its safe to land and start the collection process on Tuesday. There are two key products weve built, one of which is a detailed map of the asteroids surface, complete with potential hazards for the spacecraft, Dante Lauretta, the missions principal investigator from the University of Arizona, told Al Jazeera. And the other is a catalogue of features in the crater. If a sample is collected, it will be weighed and the team will determine if another attempt is necessary. But if all goes as planned and there is enough material in the OSIRIS-RExs collection head, it will be stowed in a special canister that will be jettisoned when the spacecraft swings by Earth in 2023. If this kind of chemistry is happening in the early solar system, it probably happened in other solar systems as well. It helps us assess the likelihood of the origin of life occurring throughout the galaxy and, ultimately, throughout the universe. Dante Lauretta, University of Arizona But if OSIRIS-RExs onboard hazard map determines it isnt safe to land in Nightingale, the spacecraft will abort the manoeuvre and the team will have to reassess its plans and its maps. Both the onboard hazard map and the catalogue of features in the crater change as a result of us firing the TAGSAM at the surface, so we will need to rebuild our maps, Lauretta explained. If the team fails to collect at least 0.13 pounds of material from Bennu on Tuesday, there is a second chance as early as December, but it might require relocating to a different crater. That manoeuvre would be a repeat of Tuesdays plans, at another site near Bennus equator, called Osprey, which is equally enticing. Each dive is incredibly risky, so the team is hoping it will collect enough samples on the first try. The samples OSIRIS-REx could send back to Earth could hold the keys to understanding how life formed here and elsewhere. Pay dirt Asteroid researchers have been waiting for years to get their hands on dirt from Bennu. These types of space rocks are incredibly interesting to scientists because asteroids contain pieces of the earliest materials that formed our solar system, and studying them might allow scientists to answer fundamental questions about the origins of the solar system. Thats because moons and planets have changed over time, but most asteroids have not. Asteroids are like time capsules floating in space that can provide a fossil record of the birth of our solar system, Lori Glaze, NASAs director of Planetary Science, told Al Jazeera. They can provide valuable information about how planets, like our own, came to be. Bennu was selected as a target because scientists believe it is a small fragment of what was once a much larger space rock that broke off during a collision between two asteroids early on in our solar systems history. The rubble pile seen today is more than 4.5 billion years old, a perfectly preserved cosmic time capsule that could contain clues about the origin of life, Lauretta said. Bennu turned out to be exactly the kind of target we hoped it would be, Lauretta said. Thanks to data collected from orbit, the team has determined two key discoveries: first, that between 5 and 10 percent of Bennus mass is water, and second, that its surface is littered with carbon-rich molecules. This means that any samples returned to Earth could help scientists better understand what role asteroids played in bringing water to our planet, and seeding it with the prebiotic material that provided the building blocks for life. Asteroids are like time capsules floating in space that can provide a fossil record of the birth of our solar system. They can provide valuable information about how planets, like our own, came to be. Lori Glaze, NASA Earlier this month, researchers on the OSIRIS-REx team made an exciting discovery, one that confirmed something the team suspected all along: Bennu is rich in organic material. The results were published in a series of papers in the journal, Science. Organic molecules make up all living things on Earth, Jamie Elsila, a research scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told Al Jazeera. Studying Bennu is going to help us better understand the role asteroids might play in delivering these life-forming compounds to Earth. Studying that material could also help scientists discover whether life exists elsewhere in the solar system, as well. If this kind of chemistry is happening in the early solar system, it probably happened in other solar systems as well, Lauretta said. It helps us assess the likelihood of the origin of life occurring throughout the galaxy and, ultimately, throughout the universe. Once the asteroid samples are back on Earth, they will be catalogued by scientists at NASAs Johnson Space Center. The agency will keep the majority of the material, studying some of it immediately and sending some samples to research groups around the world. NASA also plans to store a portion in a secure location in New Mexico for safekeeping. The Bennu sample is going to provide important science information now, but also for generations to come, Elsila said.