Japan’s space agency gets enough soil, gas from asteroid

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s space agency officials said on Tuesday that they had found more than anticipated amounts of soil and gases inside a small capsule. Research.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said its employees initially noticed some black particles sitting under the capsule catcher of the capsule when they ejected the container on Monday. As of Tuesday, scientists found more of the soil and gas samples in a box that had already been stored in Hayabusa’s two touchdowns on the asteroid last year.

“We have confirmed a good amount of gas as well as gas from the asteroid Ryugu,” said Yuchi Tsuda, project manager for Jaxa Hayabusa 2, in a video message during an online news conference. “Samples from outside our planet, which we have seen for a long time, are now in our hands.”

Tsuda called the successful withdrawal of asteroid soil and gas samples “a major scientific milestone”.

The pan-shaped capsule, 40 cm (15 in) in diameter, was dropped from space to a predetermined position by Hayabusa 2, which, at the end of its six-year round trip on 6 August, Rayugu. It was 300 million kilometers (190 million miles) away from Earth.

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

JAXA scientist Hirotka Sawada was first seen inside the capsule’s sample-catcher. Sawada said he was “almost speechless” with joy when he found that the samples inside contained some, as expected, dust sizes, but also pebble shapes.

The soil samples in the photos shown in Tuesday’s presentation looked like piles of dark coffee grounds sitting next to granules.

Scientists are hoping that samples from the subsurface of the asteroid may provide information dating back billions of years that are unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors. Scientists at JAXA say that they are particularly interested in the organic materials in the samples, to know how they were distributed in the solar system and if they are related to life on Earth.

Seiyi-Ichiro Watanabe, Earth and Environmental Scientist at Nagoya University, who works with JAXA, said having sample material to do more work than expected is huge news as it will expand the scope of studies.

The sample was collected from two touchdowns that Hayabusa 2 scored on Rayugu last year. The landing was more difficult than expected due to the highly rocky surface of the asteroid.

The first landing collected samples from Ryugu’s surface and the second from underground. Each was stored separately. JAXA said it would look into a second compartment used for a second touchdown in the next week, and would continue a preliminary examination before subsequent studies of the material.

After the study in Japan, some samples will be shared with NASA and other international space agencies for additional research beginning in 2022.

Meanwhile, Hayabusa 2 is now on an 11-year expedition to another asteroid, which will try to study potential defenses against meteorites that could fly towards Earth.


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