TOKYO: Japanese space agency officials said on Tuesday they discovered more than the estimated amount of soil and gases inside a small capsule brought back from a distant asteroid this month by the country’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, a project they hailed as a landmark in planetary science.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said that when they took out the tube on Monday, its workers initially found any black particles lying on the bottom of the capsule’s sample catcher.
By Tuesday, scientists discovered more of the samples of soil and gas in a compartment that held those from last year’s first of two Hayabusa touchdowns on the asteroid.
A fair amount of sand apparently obtained from the asteroid Ryugu along with gases has been verified, JAXA Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda said during an online news conference in a video chat. The samples from beyond our world that we have dreamed of for a long time are in our possession now.
“Tsuda called the successful return of the asteroid soil and gas samples a major scientific milestone.” At the conclusion of its six-year round trip to Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometres (190 million miles) from Earth, Hayabusa2 lowered the pan-shaped spacecraft, 40 centimetres (15 inches) in diameter, from space to a predetermined location in a sparsely inhabited Australian desert on Dec 6.