The specimen was dropped to Earth by a capsule in South Australia on 6 December. JAXA teams were able to retrieve the capsule where it landed and the capsule was sent to Japan before conducting some preliminary tests of the gas.
The first step was to help gas researchers confirm that the spacecraft collected a sample from Ryugu in 2019 when the spacecraft visited the asteroid.
Researchers confirmed that the gas originated from Ryugu because their analysis of the gas shows that it differs from the atmospheric composition on Earth. Two separate analyzes, one in Australia on 7 December and the other between 10 and 11 December at the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center at the JXA Sagamihara Campus, helped teams arrive at the same results.
The gas likely came from material collected on the surface and just below the asteroid’s surface.
Researchers will continue to open sample-containing capsules to understand more about the gas.
The team also confirmed that black sand grains are also inside the sample container, further confirming that there is asteroid material inside the capsule.
By the end of 2021, JAXA will share six samples from Ryugu to six teams of scientists worldwide.
Meanwhile, Hayabusa 2 continues on its way after flying from Earth in early December to drop capsules and will be visiting more asteroids in the future.
Hayabusa 2 launched on 3 December 2014, and in June 2018 the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft collected a sample from the surface of the asteroid on February 22, 2019, then fired a copper “bullet” into the asteroid to create a 33. Wide impact pit. A specimen was collected from this pit on 11 July 2019.
Then, Hayabusa 2 released the asteroid in November 2019 and went back to Earth.
Overall, the mission scientists believe that one gram of the material was collected, but they cannot be certain until they fully open it.
“One gram may seem small, but to us, one gram is too big,” said Masaki Fujimoto, deputy director general of the Department of Solar Systems Sciences at JAXA, during an online briefing organized by the Australian Science Media Center. “This is enough to address our science questions.”
The agency’s first Hayabusa mission returned samples to Earth from the asteroid Itokawa in June 2010, but scientists said that due to the failure of the spacecraft’s sampling equipment, they were only able to obtain micrograms of dust from the asteroid.
“Ryugu is connected to the process that made our planet habitable,” Fujimoto said. “The earth was born dry; it did not start with water. We think distant bodies like Ryugu came into the interior of the solar system, collided with the earth, transported water and made it habitable. That’s the basic question of which We are after and we need it. To sort the samples. “
Asteroids are like survivors of the formation of our solar system, preserving information about the origin of the planets as well as the vital elements that make life exist on Earth.
The NASA OSIRIS-REx mission recently collected a specimen from another near-Earth asteroid, Bennu, similar to Ryugu. In fact, based on early data from both missions, scientists working on both missions believe that these two asteroids once belonged to the same large parent body, before it was separated by an impact .
Beanu’s sample will return to Earth by 2023.
Patrick Michel, director of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, is an investigator for both missions.
“It’s really important to realize that no two asteroids are the same,” Mitchell told CNN in October. “Even though Benu and Ryugu share some intriguing similarities and belong to the same category (primitive), they also have very interesting differences. And these samples will capture generations of researchers as they have kept a large amount for future generations Which will benefit. Increase the accuracy of technology and equipment to analyze them. “