Today, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that the Hayabusa2 mission to collect soil samples from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu and deliver them to Earth was successful. Specialists from the space agency opened a container for samples in the “clean room” of the laboratory and found granules of black sand at its hole, which, in their opinion, are nothing more than particles from the asteroid Ryugu.
“Sample container inside the capsule to return to the atmosphere was opened, – stated in the JAXA statement. – On December 14, a granular sample of black sand was found in a sample container, presumably from the asteroid Ryugu“.
Until today, JAXA engineers were not completely sure that the spacecraft had retrieved any samples of the asteroid’s soil. Although the craft performed all sampling operations on Ryugu as planned, the mission team had no way of obtaining confirmation that the capsule delivered to Earth contained any asteroid fragments. And only today everything fell into place.
The sample container inside the re-entry capsule was opened on December 14, and we confirmed black grains thought to be from Ryugu were inside. This is outside the main chambers, and likely particles attached to the sample catcher entrance. (English release available tomorrow) https://t.co/NAw1R1cjvy pic.twitter.com/5BfXxfH29h
– HAYABUSA2 @ JAXA (@ haya2e_jaxa) December 14, 2020
But the good news does not end there, as the soil from the asteroid may be even more, since the engineers have not yet fully opened the container. The black sand JAXA found was right at the opening of the container. Deeper in the container, there is a container that can hold the bulk of the samples. The mission was to collect up to 100 milligrams of soil on Ryuga. How much it was achieved will become known after scientists fully open the container for storing samples.
As previously reported, the autopsy and sorting process will take about six months, after which scientists will begin studying the samples. Part of the asteroid soil samples will be transferred to NASA for study.
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