A NASA spacecraft is stuffed with so much asteroid rubble from this week’s grab that it's jammed open and precious particles are drifting away in space, scientists said Friday. Scientists announced the news three days after the spacecraft named Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu, NASA's first attempt at such a mission, the AP reports. The mission's lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, said Tuesday's operation 200 million miles away collected far more material than expected for return to Earth—in the hundreds of grams. The sample container on the end of the robot arm penetrated so deeply into the asteroid and with such force, however, that rocks got sucked in and became wedged around the rim of the lid.
Scientists estimate the sampler pressed as much as 19 inches into the rough, crumbly, black terrain. "We're almost a victim of our own success here," Lauretta said at a hastily arranged news conference. Lauretta said there is nothing flight controllers can do to clear the obstructions and prevent more bits of Bennu from escaping, other than to get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible. So, the flight team was scrambling to put the sample container into the capsule as early as Tuesday—much sooner than originally planned—for the long trip home. "Time is of the essence," said Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of NASA's science missions. The samples won't make it back until 2023, seven years after the spacecraft rocketed away from Cape Canaveral.
(Read more NASA