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Nitrogen shoots from the collection head to stir things up!
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Nitrogen shoots from the collection head to stir things up!

After almost two years of orbiting and carefully studying Bennu, an ancient asteroid that’s 205 million miles from Earth, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has DEFTLY reached out and grabbed a sample of dirt and rock on Oct. 20! 

The ambitious NASA mission is led by the University of Arizona. The 4,650-lb spacecraft has cameras on board built by the UofA and a thermal emission spectrometer built by ASU to analyze rocks. 

Bennu’s rocky terrain, with building-sized boulders, surprised scientists and brought about challenges that are just as big! Scientists believe the asteroid, which has an average radius of 861 feet, may have formed billions of years ago as our solar system started forming. The asteroid is rich in carbon-based molecules, and scientists want samples brought back to Earth in hopes of unlocking some of the mysteries as to how life may have started here and how our oceans formed. Astronomers discovered Bennu in 1990 and named it after an Egyptian mythological bird associated with creation, rebirth and the sun. 

The team chose a site named Nightengale as its target for the sample-return mission. Just the size of six parking spaces and surrounded by what could be mission-ending boulders, it was a risky sample site. 

The spacecraft dropped out of its orbit and extended its 11-foot arm that had a round collection head attached to it. To make things even more challenging, images took 18 minutes to arrive back to mission control! 

But the collection head made contact and nitrogen gas was released to stir up dirt and rocks into the head. See the video at 

The team cheered upon learning that things went well. “(I’m) a little overwhelmed right now…it’s been a pretty intense several minutes here,” said Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator for the mission. “The team is exuberant!” 

But new challenges cropped up, forcing the team to stow the head in its sealed container early. The spacecraft starts its return trip to Earth in March and should arrive Sept. 24, 2023.

Hot Toys In Limited Supply This Year! 

What do toilet paper, cleaning supplies and toys all have in common?

They’re all items that have been in big demand and limited supply during the pandemic!

In most of Arizona, the pandemic picked up as temperatures were heating up, which meant people were suddenly stuck at home and indoors. Some parents responded by buying games, puzzles, building blocks, art supplies, game consoles and more. In the first nine months of 2020, the toy industry in the United States grew 19 percent.

“So you saw huge growth in the toy industry at a time where normally the toy industry is fairly quiet,” said Steve Pasierb, CEO of the trade group The Toy Association, earlier this fall.

Most experts expect this trend to continue as the pandemic goes on and people continue sticking close to home. This has led some experts to predict a huge holiday season for toy sales in 2020. Many stores are anticipating the uptick in sales and offering sales online and throughout the month of November—in an effort to reduce large crowds in stores.

The holidays are often a difficult time to find some products. But “during a holiday that’s impacted by COVID, there may be even more” shortages, says Karl Haller to USA Today. Haller is the Consumer Center of Competency leader and retail industry expert for IBM Global Business Services.

So which toys do experts PROJECT will be top sellers for the holidays?

All things Baby Yoda, officially known as The Child, are at the top of many lists! Sony’s PlayStation 5 and other consoles also may be difficult-to-find items.

LEGO is expected to have some hot ticket items as well. This is likely because of the range of products they offer, which vary from complex sets that include thousands of pieces to LEGO Dots that allow kids to make everything from jewelry boxes to picture frames and pencil cups.

Whatever you’re hoping for this holiday season, remember to ask nicely!

November 2020