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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully taps an asteroid in attempt to a grab sample

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This afternoon, a NASA spacecraft more than 200 million miles from Earth successfully touched the surface of an asteroid, in an attempt to grab a handful of pebbles and dust from the space rock. Data from the spacecraft confirmed that the vehicle did indeed touch the asteroid today, but NASA won’t know until tomorrow if it actually snagged a sample of material.

The spacecraft that just tapped the asteroid is OSIRIS-REx, and this sampling maneuver has been years in the making. The main purpose of the spacecraft is to bring a pristine sample of an asteroid back to Earth, so that scientists can study the material in a lab. Asteroids are considered to be primordial remnants of the early Solar System — objects that have remained relatively unchanged since the dawn of the planets. Analyzing just a tiny piece of an asteroid could give scientists a wealth of knowledge about the types of materials that were present when the Solar System was just getting started.

But if all went well with the sampling, OSIRIS-REx’s haul won’t be tiny. The mission team is hoping to snag up to 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of dirt from the spacecraft’s target asteroid, named Bennu. If OSIRIS-REx grabbed that much material, it will be the largest sample from an asteroid ever collected — and the largest sample of material gathered from another space body since the Apollo missions. Two other Japanese missions have sampled asteroids before, but their caches were in the milligram range. And OSIRIS-REx could possibly get much more, with the capability of gathering up to 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of asteroid samples.

To collect the sample, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is equipped with a long, thin robotic arm, with a cylindrical collection device attached to the end. This afternoon, the spacecraft descended to the surface of Bennu with the arm extended and gently touched the asteroid for just a few seconds. Right as the arm made contact, the vehicle released a blast of nitrogen gas that hopefully stirred up the rocks on the surface of the asteroid. That should have pushed a sizable amount of material into the collector at the end of the arm.

NASA expects to know by tomorrow if OSIRIS-REx got a sample when images from the spacecraft start to come in. “That will give us a much better feel for whether we have a sample or not and how the spacecraft is actually performing,” Beth Buck, the mission operations program manager for OSIRIS-REx at Lockheed Martin, said during a press conference before the sample maneuver. “But we’ll continue to analyze that over the next 10 days or so … as we proceed forward.”

Over the weekend, the mission team will attempt to quantify just how much material OSIRIS-REx scooped up. With the spacecraft backed away from Bennu, the engineers will spin the spacecraft with the sampling arm extended. When they compare the spinning vehicle’s inertia to earlier data from an emptier spacecraft, the mission team should get a clear idea of just how much they scooped up.

If they decide they did collect more than 60 grams of material, the team will likely declare a success and start preparing for OSIRIS-REx to depart Bennu in March. The spacecraft is slated to arrive back on Earth in September 2023. At that point, the sample material will parachute down to the surface, landing in the Utah desert.

If the team finds out they didn’t get what they wanted, there are options to try again. OSIRIS-REx can do up to two more sample attempts, as it has two extra bottles of nitrogen gas on board to stir up material. Those decisions will come later, though. For now, the team is celebrating just touching the asteroid with OSIRIS-REx. Tomorrow, we’ll learn more about what the spacecraft actually grabbed.

Developing…

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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