More than a week after the Hayabusa2 return capsule landed in Australia, we received the first images of soil from the distant asteroid Ryugu.
The team of the Japanese space mission “Hayabusa2”, which performed a two-way flight from Earth to asteroid Ryugu between 2014 and 2020, confirmed that the containers returned to Earth contain more than the expected amount of samples of the asteroid’s primer and rocks.
I remind readers that Hayabusa2 was Japan’s second mission specifically designed to deliver asteroid material to Earth. The first Hayabusa returned in 2010 after a trip to asteroid 25143 Itokawa, but the expedition was accompanied by many problems and the ground collection mechanism itself failed to work. However, upon return, it was found that the containers contained microscopic dust from Itokawa, which got there passively.
Now, there are much larger pieces and generally, a bigger amount of collected samples in the containers of “Hayabusa2”. Scientists have revealed several photos which you will see scattered in this text.
Soil samples from Asteroid Ryugu… what else did Hayabusa2 bring?
Rocks and soil are not the only treasures brought to Earth by Hayabusa2. Today, the Japan Space Agency announced that after the opening of the capsule, the gas released from it was analyzed using a mass spectrometer. The results of the analysis clearly showed that the gas differs from the components typical of the Earth’s atmosphere, therefore it originates from the asteroid Ryugu.
This was the first delivery of material to Earth in a gaseous state through an interplanetary mission.
I would also like to remind you that under an agreement between the United States and Japan, the Japanese are obliged to provide some of the material collected by the Hayabusa2 mission to their American counterparts. In return, the Americans pledged to give bits of the asteroid Benu when NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission returned to Earth in 2023. In October this year, Osiris-Rex made a successful landing on the surface of Bennu and collected about 2 kilograms of rock samples.
The Japanese mission Hayabusa 2, the American Osiris-Rex, the Chinese Chang’e 5, and the American Perseverance are the four returnable expeditions that are at different stages of implementation in 2020 and are committed to delivering or starting procedures on the supply of material from Ryugu, Bennu, the Moon and Mars respectively.
Overall, we can expect breakthrough discoveries soon, right? The successful return of Hayabusa2 (or more specifically – the return of its capsule) can be considered as a huge step for planetary research as asteroid Ryugu is truly an important target.
I mentioned that America will receive a small amount of the soil samples but I did not explain how the whole amount will be divided. About 10% will be sent to the USA in return for future samples of asteroid Benu. Another 15% will be available for international research and 40% will be stored for future research. Quick maths and we see that Japan plans to research about 35% of the collected amount. The good thing is they found more soil and rocks than expected.
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• Analysis results from the gas collected from the sample container of the asteroid explorer, Hayabusa2.
• Confirmation of the asteroid Ryugu sample collection by the asteroid explorer, Hayabusa2.
• Katie Forster, A. (n.d.). Japan Just Revealed The First Image of Ryugu’s Asteroid Dust to The World.
• Mallapaty, S. (2020, December 15). Asteroid dust recovered from Japan’s daring Hayabusa2 mission.
• Yamaguchi, M. (2020, December 15). Japan’s space agency finds ample soil, gas from asteroid.