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Why is Nasa’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample canister ‘scientific treasure box’ to scientists?

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As scientists took a closer look at the sample of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu that was recently collected by Nasa, they were greeted with a pleasant surprise.

Last week, scientists discovered a dark, fine-grained material on the inside of a canister containing a sample from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu which could provide key insights about the asteroid before the primary sample is analysed.

Nasa’s 7-year OSIRIS-Rex mission returned to Earth on September 24, carrying the asteroid sample, topping a total trip distance of some 3.86 billion miles.

The canister, which according to Nasa is a “scientific treasure box,” was taken to Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where a clean room was built for the analysis of the cosmic sample.

Asteroids, remnants of the solar system’s formation, provide insights into the early days of planet formation. However, they also pose a threat to Earth, highlighting the importance of understanding their composition and orbits crucial for deflecting space rocks on collision courses, CNN reported.

In October 2020, OSIRIS-REx used its ouch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) head to collect a sample from Bennu’s surface, which gathered so much material that particles drifted off into space before being stowed in a canister.

Scientists believed they could analyse the material quickly, but there was plenty before reaching the bulk of the sample, requiring more time to collect all the material.

“The very best ‘problem’ to have is that there is so much material, it’s taking longer than we expected to collect it,” said Christopher Snead, deputy OSIRIS-REx curation lead, in a statement.

“There’s a lot of abundant material outside the TAGSAM head that’s interesting in its own right. It’s really spectacular to have all that material there.”

The asteroid sample will be revealed on October 11 in a live Nasa broadcast. The TAGSAM head will be carefully disassembled in a specialised glovebox to reveal initial findings from Bennu material.

“We have all the microanalytical techniques that we can throw at this to really, really tear it apart, almost down to the atomic scale,” said Lindsay Keller, OSIRIS-REx sample analysis team member, in a statement.

Additionally, the team plans to examine Bennu’s collected material using scanning electron microscopes, X-rays, and infrared instruments to understand its chemical composition and detect hydrated minerals or organic particles.

The instruments will also reveal the abundance of specific minerals on the asteroid.

The initial analysis will help researchers have a better idea of what to expect from the bulk sample collected from Bennu.

Scientists believe asteroids like Bennu may have introduced essential elements like water to Earth early in our planet’s formation, potentially answering questions about the origins of our solar system.

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Users of WhatsApp will soon be able to lock chats on connected devices.

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Additionally, linked devices will now have access to the conversation lock feature. Users of WhatsApp will also soon have the option to tag their contacts in status updates.

Notably, WhatsApp users can link their devices to log in to the same account on different devices. However, several functions, such as conversation locks and status updates, are not accessible on the secondary devices.

Even if they are locked on the main conversations, anybody can still access your private chats on a connected device. WhatsApp is currently working on adding Chat Lock capability to connected devices in order to address this.

The chat lock feature on WhatsApp will soon be available on connected devices.

Prior to this, it was claimed that WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, was developing new personalisation options for an iOS beta.

According to WABetaInfo, an update tracker portal for the instant messaging network, WhatsApp for iOS users will soon get the option to modify both the conversation bubble’s colour and the app’s primary colour scheme.

A feature that let beta testers choose the primary colour scheme of the WhatsApp iOS app from a selection of five colours was first tested back in January.

The instant messaging app is testing a feature that lets users change the colour of chat bubbles within conversations, though, in a new beta edition.

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Moon train operations are planned by NASA.

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The goal is to construct the first lunar train system, which will enable safe, independent, and effective cargo transportation on the moon, according to robotics specialist Ethan Schaler of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

He went on, “The day-to-day functioning of a sustainable lunar base in the 2030s will depend heavily on a robust, long-lasting robotic transport system.”

The Flexible Levitation on a Track, or FLOAT, is the name of the proposed lunar rail system. According to NASA, the establishment of a railway system on the moon is “critical to the daily operations.”

According to the space agency, the primary objective of FLOAT is to offer transportation services in regions of the moon where astronauts are engaged in activities. To do this, cargoes of lunar soil and other materials will need to be transported to various regions of the moon.

Each robot will be able to transport cargo of various sizes and shapes at a pace of roughly 1 mph (1.61 km/h), according to Dr. Schaler.

Notably, NASA also declared new initiatives last month to create and test new vehicle models intended for moon exploration.

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Pakistan’s lunar mission ‘ICUBE-Q’ reaches the moon orbit.

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Pakistan’s lunar mission (ICUBE-Q) entered orbit around the moon on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s historic lunar mission (ICUBE-Q) launched from Hainan, China, on Friday aboard China’s Chang’E6 spacecraft.

According to the IST, the satellite ICUBE-Q was planned and developed in partnership with China’s Shanghai University SJTU and Pakistan’s national space agency SUPARCO.

The ICUBE-Q orbiter is equipped with two optical cameras to image the lunar surface. ICUBE-Q has now been integrated into the Chang’e6 mission after successfully qualifying and testing it.

Chang’e6 is the sixth lunar exploration mission launched by China.

The launch event was streamed live on the IST website and social media platforms. Chang’6, China’s Lunar Mission, will land on the Moon’s far side to collect surface samples before returning to Earth for further research.

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