JAXA Confirms Asteroid Material Captured by Hayabusa2

JAXA Confirms Asteroid Material Captured by Hayabusa2

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has confirmed that the Hayabusa2 spacecraft did indeed obtain samples of the asteroid Ryugu that are now back on Earth. It had no method to determine how much, if any, material was collected when Hayabusa2 touched down on Ryugu until it could open the capsule after its return.

Hayabusa 2 was launched in December 2014 and arrived at Ryugu in June 2018. It deposited three tiny lander/rovers on the surface and also fired an impactor into it to expose subsurface material. The spacecraft briefly touched down twice to collect samples of the surface and then of the exposed subsurface material during its year-and-a-half visit. It left Ryugu in November 2019 and the sample return capsule landed in Woomera, Australia 10 days ago. The main spacecraft is continuing its journey after ejecting the capsule and will visit another asteroid in 2031.

JAXA has not provided specifics on how much material is there, only that a “large number” of dark particles are in “sample chamber A” and thought to be from the first touchdown.

Particles earlier were observed on the outside of the main chambers.

The sample capsule also was filled with a gas that scientists later determined also was from Ryugu,

Japan was the first country to return samples of an asteroid in 2010 with the Hayabusa mission, although technical problems meant only about 1,500 grains were collected.  From the photo in the tweet, it is clear they did much better this time and they still have two other chambers, B and C, to open.

Top: Illustration of the Hayabusa2 sample return capsule interior. Bottom: photo looking into the capsule. Source: JAXA https://global.jaxa.jp/press/2020/12/20201214-1_e.html

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx just collected samples of a different asteroid, Bennu, that will return to Earth in 2023.  The two space agencies will share their samples.

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