The capsule landed in the Australian Outback on 6 December, and JAXA scientists quickly took it to a pop-up lab in Australia called the “Quick Look Facility,” or QLF. Scientists soon confirmed that they had captured the gases, but further testing was needed to confirm the investigation that they were of supernatural origin. Yesterday, the team confirmed that the gas sample matched the original analysis, confirming gases previously captured from deep space in space.
The sample container inside the re-entry capsule was opened on 14 December, and we confirmed that the dark colored grains are from inside the raigu. It is outside the main chambers, and is likely to have particles attached to the sample-grabbing entrance. (English release available tomorrow) https://t.co/NAw1R1cjvy pic.twitter.com/5BfXxfH29h
– HAYABUSA2 @ JAXA (@ haya2e_jaxa) 14 December 2020
At the same time, JXA showed material captured as dark debris and small rocks from the surface of the asteroid. They were found in the “A” sample chamber, so Jaxa believes they were collected and stored during the first two touchdowns. The second touchdown should have kicked samples that would be stored in the chamber “C”. Earlier, the agency confirmed the presence of a grain of “black sand” thought from Rayugu, enclosed outside the main chambers.
After weighing the material and opening all cells to confirm, JAXA will begin assaying samples using microscopes and infrared spectra analysis. We should learn more about composition in early 2021, and by the end of 2021, JAXA will begin sharing samples with NASA and other agencies.
So far, JAXA estimates that it stored 1 to 2 grams of material or 10 to 20 times more than 100 mg. If accurate, this would be the largest asteroid sample ever collected directly from space. Only other extraterrestrial asteroid samples also came from Japan via the Hayabusa 1 mission, collecting just 1 mg of material.
This also means that unlike asteroid fragmentation that falls on Earth, the Hayabusa 2 samples are free from terrestrial contamination. Scientists are hoping that the material, essentially the artifacts of our ancient solar system, will provide clues in how to constitute the Earth – and even life.