The space probe “Hayabusa2” was in space for six years. It was supposed to collect material from an asteroid and thus yield new knowledge about our solar system. The researchers are enthusiastic about the process.

A space capsule brought to Earth by the Japanese space probe “Hayabusa2” contains more material from an asteroid than the researchers had hoped. As the Japanese space agency Jaxa announced Tuesday, a significant amount of soil and gas samples from the asteroid Ryugu, 300 million kilometers away, were found in one of the two capsule chambers. This completes the mission perfectly, said “Hayabusa2” project manager Yuichi Tsuda, speaking of a milestone for space exploration. By analyzing the asteroid’s material, estimated to be 4.6 billion years old, the scientists hope to trace the origins of the solar system and life on Earth in more detail.

The spacecraft dropped the capsule on December 6 at the end of a six-year journey through space over Australia, where it fell into a desert and was later flown to Japan. The samples in it, which look like dark coffee beans, come from two landings on Ryugu. The first was to take material from the surface of the asteroid and the second to take samples for the first time from the surface of such a celestial body. Both samples were collected in separate chambers. The Japanese researchers plan to check the room used for the second landing next week.

Parts will be examined from next year

The Japanese space agency’s goal was to collect a minimum of 0.1 gram of samples. These can contain organic matter, such as amino acids, which are basic building blocks of life. Analyzes must also reveal whether asteroids could have brought large amounts of water to our planet during impacts.

In Japan, the individual components of the soil and gas samples of the asteroid Ryugu will first be recorded and described, before microscopic, mineralogical and geochemical investigations will begin mid-next year. Jaxa will make some of the samples available to NASA and researchers in other countries by 2022.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) also took part in the spectacular mission with the “Mascot” lander, developed together with the French space agency CNES. It landed on Ryugu in October 2018 and explored the asteroid made of highly porous material.

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