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NASA works to head off losing too much Osiris-Rex asteroid dust

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An artistic rendition of Osiris-Rex approaching the asteroid Bennu Handout NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University/AFP

NASA said Friday that its robotic spacecraft Osiris-Rex had succeeded in collecting a large sample of particles from the Bennu asteroid this week — but so much that it was leaking.

The team in charge of the probe is now working to quickly stow the remaining samples that would eventually be delivered back to Earth to provide key scientific insights.

“A substantial fraction of the required collected mass is seen escaping,” mission chief Dante Lauretta said in a phone briefing with journalists.

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Osiris-Rex is set to come home in September 2023, hopefully with the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era, which will help unravel the origins of our solar system.

The probe is thought to have collected some 400 grams of fragments, far more than the minimum of 60 grams needed, Lauretta said.

But the lid for the collector at the end of the probe’s arm where the fragments are being stored has been slightly wedged open by larger rocks, creating a leak, the scientists suspect.

Five to 10 grams have already been observed around the collection arm in a cloud remaining more or less in the surrounding area due to the microgravity environment which makes fragments behave like fluids.

“My big concern now is that the particles are escaping because we were almost a victim of our own success here,” Lauretta said.

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As a result, a plan to carry out a mass measurement on Saturday has been cancelled since it could risk scattering further samples.

The task is now to reduce as much as possible the spacecraft’s activities and prepare to stow the material in a capsule on the probe as quickly as possible.

Is Osiris-Rex, launched more than four years ago, at risk of losing its treasure? The volume of the leak is not yet precisely known, but the experts seemed relatively confident that would not be the case.

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“Bennu continues to surprise us with great science and also throwing a few curveballs,” Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA associate administrator, said in a statement.

“And although we may have to move more quickly to stow the sample, it’s not a bad problem to have. We are so excited to see what appears to be an abundant sample that will inspire science for decades beyond this historic moment.”

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COVID-19

Britain ‘rushed’ Pfizer Covid vaccine approval: Fauci

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Leading American infectious disease scientist Anthony Fauci criticized Britain on Thursday for rushing through its approval process for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, suggesting the move could undermine public faith.

His comments came a day after Britain became the first Western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine for general use, prompting some skepticism among the country's European neighbors and suggestions that the process was politicized.

Widely-respected Fauci, who leads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News on Thursday: "In all fairness to so many of my UK friends, you know, they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile.

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2020 Election

Donald Trump’s eyes and ears at the Justice Department banned from the building: report

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The Associated Press reported Thursday that President Donald Trump’s eyes and ears at the Justice Department was barred from entering the building.

The report revealed that Heidi Stirrup, "an ally of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller," was pressuring Justice Department staff to hand over sensitive documents and information about alleged "election fraud" and other issues that are important to Trump.

Attorney General Bill Barr told the AP on Tuesday that there was no widespread election fraud or voter fraud, as Trump has claimed for the past several weeks since losing the 2020 election. Trump alleged that Barr “hasn’t looked very hard."

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2020 Election

Obama says some Black men are persuaded by Trump’s ‘macho’ bravado bragging about women and money

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In part two of the SnapChat interview with President Barack Obama, Peter Hamby asked how President Donald Trump was able to persuade so many Black men to support him over President-elect Joe Biden.

When Obama was elected he got about 95 percent of the Black vote, where Biden got about 80 percent.

"Well, look, I think men, generally, are more susceptible to public figures who act tough, sort of the stereotypical macho style," Obama said, while videos of Trump showing off his flabby muscles appeared. "I don't think Black men are immune to that any more than White or Hispanic men are. A lot of the values of pop culture are extolling wealth, power, frankly, greed, not thinking about other people because you're so ruthless you're just looking out for yourself."

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