That capsule landed in the Australian outback on December 6, and JAXA scientists quickly moved it to a pop-up lab in Australia called the “Quick Look Facility” or QLF. Scientists soon confirmed that they had captured gases, but the probe needed further testing to confirm that they were of alien origin. Yesterday, the team confirmed that the gas sample matched the original analysis, confirming the very first gases from deep space.
The sample container in the re-entry capsule was opened on December 14 and we confirmed that there were black granules from Ryugu. This is outside the main chambers and probably particles are attached to the entrance of the sample catcher. (English release available tomorrow) https://t.co/NAw1R1cjvy pic.twitter.com/5BfXxfH29h
– HAYABUSA2 @ JAXA (@ haya2e_jaxa) December 14, 2020
At the same time, JAXA showed material collected from the asteroid’s surface in the form of dark debris and small rocks. They were found in the “A” sample chamber, so JAXA believes they were collected and stored during the first of two touchdowns. The second touchdown should have raised monsters to be stored in room “C”. Earlier, the agency confirmed the presence of grains of “black sand” believed to have come from Ryugu, which attached themselves just outside the main rooms.
After all chambers have been opened to weigh and confirm the materials, JAXA will begin to evaluate the samples using microscopes and infrared spectral analysis. We should know more about its composition in early 2021, and by the end of 2021, JAXA will start sharing samples with NASA and other agencies.
So far, JAXA estimates it has accumulated 1 to 2 grams of material, or 10 to 20 times more than the 100 milligrams it was hoping for. If accurate, it would be by far the largest asteroid monster ever collected directly from space. The only other alien asteroid monster also came from Japan via the Hayabusa1 mission, which collected just 1 milligram of material.
It also means that unlike asteroid chunks that fall to Earth, the Hayabusa2 monsters are free from terrestrial pollution. Scientists hope the materials, essentially artifacts of our ancient solar system, will provide clues as to how Earth – and even life – was initially formed.