TOKYO (AP) – They resemble small pieces of charcoal, but soil samples collected from an asteroid and returned to Earth by a Japanese spacecraft were hardly disappointing.
Samples from Japanese space officials described on Thursday are as large as 1 centimeter (0.4 in) and rock hard when not lifted or inserted into another container. The spacecraft was disassembled last week by collecting small black, sandy grains.
The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft received two sets of samples from two locations on the asteroid Rayugu more than 300 million kilometers (190 million miles) from Earth last year. This dropped him from space on a target in the Australian Outback, and the samples were brought to Japan in early December.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s sandy rash described last week was the first touchdown of the spacecraft in April 2019.
Space scientist Tomohiro Usui said there were larger pieces from the compartment allocated for the second touchdown on Ryugu.
To obtain a second set of samples in July last year, Hayabusa 2 dropped an impactor to explode beneath the asteroid’s surface, subsequently collecting material so that it was unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.
Usui stated that the size differences suggest different stiffnesses of the base on the asteroid. “One possibility is that the location of the second touchdown was a hard bedrake and entered the compartment, breaking large particles.”
JAXA has continued preliminary examination of asteroid samples ahead of Fuller studies the following year. Scientists hope that the samples will provide information about the origin of the solar system and life on Earth. After the study in Japan, some samples will be shared with NASA and other international space agencies for additional research.
Hayabusa 2, meanwhile, is on an 11-year expedition to another small and distant asteroid, 1998KY26, which could try to study potential defenses against meteorites that could fly towards Earth.
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