NASA’s New Mission Inspired by… the Solo Cup

NASA’s going all Armageddon and shooting a spacecraft to an asteroid, but this one won’t be carrying Bruce Willis and won’t actually be landing on the rock. The newest mission is called OSIRIS-Rex, and the goal is to collect asteroid dust in hopes of finding out what the early solar system was made of and how the earth was formed. And believe it or not, part of the mission was inspired by a Solo cup.

Yes, according to Science World Report, everyone’s favorite party time beverage container helped scientists figure out how to gather dust on an asteroid with no gravity. Asteroid Bennu, where NASA is headed, is gravity-free. If you try to scoop something up, all the dust will scatter when you touch it.

So the folks at NASA looked at research from Lockheed Martin Engineer, Jim Harris. The story goes that Jim had a solo cup on its rim on the ground.  He poked holes in the bottom and shot some compressed air through it. Dust shot out of the holes in the cup, and he was able to collect it in another container. He originally called his reverse vacuum concept, the “Muucav” which is just “vacuum” reversed. Later he changed it to TAGSAM, or Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism.

But really all we need to know is that NASA’s sending an unmanned spacecraft to reverse vacuum some asteroid dust and bring it back to the Earth for study. It should be pretty cool to see what they find and may even further our own understanding of what’s going down here on Earth.  Plus, they figured out how to get things done by looking at a Solo cup. So next time you’re at a party, you too can feel like an NASA scientist.