The Japanese space agency finds enough land, gas from an asteroid

This photo, taken by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), shows soil samples seen in a container from the re-entry capsule brought by Hayabusa2 in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, Tuesday December 15, 2020. Japanese space officials said Tuesday that they found more than expected amount of soil and gases in a small capsule, the country’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft brought this month from a distant asteroid, a monster return mission they hailed as a milestone for planetary research. (JAXA via AP)

Officials at the Japanese space agency said on Tuesday they have found more than the expected amount of soil and gases in a small capsule that the country’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft brought from a distant asteroid this month, a mission they hailed as a milestone in planetary. research.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said staff initially saw some black particles on the bottom of the capsule’s sample collector when they pulled the container out on Monday. On Tuesday, scientists found more of the soil and gas samples in a compartment that contained those from the first of Hayabusa’s two landings on the asteroid last year.

“We have confirmed that a good amount of sand has apparently been collected from the asteroid Ryugu, along with gases,” said JAXA Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda in a video message during an online press conference. “The monsters from outside our planet, which we have long dreamed of, are now in our hands.”

Tsuda called the successful return of the asteroid soil and gas samples “an important scientific milestone.”

The pan-shaped capsule, 40 centimeters (15 inches) in diameter, was dropped from space by Hayabusa2 on December 6 to a predetermined spot in a sparsely populated Australian desert at the end of its six-year journey to Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometers. (190 million miles) from Earth.

The Japanese space agency finds enough land, gas from an asteroid

This photo taken by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows soil samples, seen in a container from the re-entry capsule brought by Hayabusa2, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Officials from the Japanese space agency said on Tuesday that they found more than the expected amount of soil and gases in a small capsule that the country’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft brought from a distant asteroid this month, a monster return mission they hailed as a milestone for planetary exploration. (JAXA via AP)

The capsule arrived in Japan on Tuesday for research that scientists hope will provide insight into the origins of the solar system and life on Earth.

Hirotaka Sawada, a JAXA scientist, was the first to look inside the capsule’s sample catcher. Sawada said he was “nearly speechless” with joy to discover that the monsters inside contained some monsters that were dusty, as expected, but also some as big as pebbles.

Soil samples in photos shown in Tuesday’s presentation looked like heaps of dark coffee grounds next to grains.

Scientists hope that samples from the asteroid’s subsurface can provide information from billions of years ago that is unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors. JAXA scientists say they are particularly interested in organic materials in the samples to find out how they were distributed in the solar system and whether they are related to life on Earth.

  • The Japanese space agency finds enough land, gas from an asteroid

    This photo, taken by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), shows soil samples at the bottom of the capsule’s sample collector, returned by Hayabusa2, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Japan officials. Space agency said on Tuesday that they have found more than expected amount of soil and gases in a small capsule that the country’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft brought from a distant asteroid this month, a monster return mission they hailed as a milestone for planetary research. (JAXA via AP)

  • The Japanese space agency finds enough land, gas from an asteroid

    In this December 8, 2020 file photo, Yuichi Tsuda, project manager of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa2, speaks at a press conference after a capsule containing asteroid soil samples returned to Japan, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo. Japanese space agency officials said Tuesday, December 15, that they have found more than the expected amount of soil and gases in a small capsule that the country’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft brought from a distant asteroid this month, a mission they hailed as a milestone. for Planetary Research. (Yu Nakajima / Kyodo News via AP, File)

Sei-ichiro Watanabe, a Nagoya University earth and environmental scientist who works with JAXA, said having more sample material to work with than expected is great news as it will expand the scope of the studies.

The samples were collected from two touchdowns Hayabusa2 made on Ryugu last year. The landings were more difficult than expected due to the asteroid’s extremely rocky surface.

The first landing collected samples from the surface of Ryugu and the second from underground. Each was saved separately. JAXA said it will look into another compartment next week, which will be used for a second touchdown, and will continue an initial investigation ahead of subsequent studies of the material.

The Japanese space agency finds enough land, gas from an asteroid

Next Monday, December 14, 2020, a photo released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows black granules, on the right, believed to be from Ryugu, in the sample container of Hayabusa2’s re-entry capsule, in Sagamihara , near Tokyo. The Japanese space agency said on Monday it has confirmed the presence of black ground samples in a capsule that the Hayabusa2 spacecraft took from a distant asteroid last week. (JAXA via AP)

Following studies in Japan, some samples will be shared with NASA and other international space agencies from 2022 onwards for additional research.

Hayabusa2, meanwhile, is on an 11-year expedition to another asteroid to try to study possible defenses against meteorites that could fly to Earth.


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