On December 5, 2020Japan Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa 2 The mission sent home a model capsule containing debris from the Near-Earth asteroid (NEA) 162173 Ryugu. This was the culmination of the probe’s first six years in space, which launched in December 2014 and met Ryugu in June 2018. As the probe sets its sights on New targets, The scientists will be busy analyzing the Ryugu sample.
One thing they noticed as soon as the shell opened on Monday (Dec. 21UIt was the black sand dust lining the outer shell of the capsule. according to A statement issued by JAXABlack sand is a material taken from the surface of Ryugu. Looking at what is inside sample chamber A, it appears that the amount of material is obtained Hayabusa 2 More substantial than previously thought.
The discovery comes just one week after the return capsule to Earth. It was recovered and the sample it contains in Woomera, Australia on December 6, 2020, after entering the atmosphere and creating a bright streak in the sky. By December 8th, the capsule was delivered to the JAXA Sagamihara campus, where technicians carefully began the process of removing the sample.
On December 14thThe tenthIn a statement, the agency confirmed that a sample of grains of black sand, believed to be from the asteroid, had been found inside the sample container. It appears to have become attached to the entrance to the sample holder, the container in which the samples were stored. JAXA also released an image of what the soot was like (shown above). as they are advertiser:
And JAXA confirmed that the samples taken from the asteroid Ryugu are inside the sample container. We were able to confirm the sand-like black particles that are believed to be derived from the Ryugu asteroid. We will continue our work to open the sample holder inside the sample container. The sample will be extracted and analyzed.“
One day later, JAXA released two statements. the first Announce confirmation That the samples obtained actually came from the asteroid Ryugu. The second statement shared the results Perform the analysis on gas That was also in the sample container A. After performing the mass spectrometry tests at the Rapid Screening Facility (QLF) – set up on December 7thThe tenth, 2020 at Woomera’s local headquarters – JAXA confirmed that the gas originated from the asteroid.
To confirm the initial results, a similar analysis was performed in Extraterrestrial Samples Regulatory Center (ESCuC) on the JAXA Sagamihara Campus On December 10thThe tenth And 11The tenth. These tests yielded the same result, indicating that the gases are indeed the result of materials obtained as part of the Ryugu sample that sublimates during transport to the ground.
This is the first time that a return sample contains material from the depths of an object in deep space, not to mention material from the said object that was in a gaseous state. JAXA also indicated in the The second statement The analysis team will continue to examine the gaseous sample and perform a “detailed analysis of the molecular and isotopic composition of the combined gas”.
Meanwhile, JAXA will continue to “open the sample rooms B and C inside the sample container, and the sample will be removed and analyzed by the treatment group and the initial analysis team,” They said. These samples include both surface dust and original material from beneath the surface that have been kicked in by impact launched from the probe (which was essentially a Anti-tank warhead).
While it was in orbit around Ryugu, Hayabusa 2 too Deployed four small rovers – Including mascot And the Minerva II To the surface of the asteroid to examine and analyze the geological context of the samples collected. Due to minimal gravity and very uneven surfaces, these vehicles are designed to hop in their way rather than relying on legs, wheels, or tread.
These samples are the first glimpse into the six-year re-sample mission and its successor Hayabusa The mission – which meets the asteroid Itokawa in September 2005 and returns a sample to Earth by June 2010. At that time and now, the purpose of these missions is to study the material left over from the formation of the Solar System (which is mainly represented by asteroids).
In addition to revealing things about the early periods of the solar system, the surface and interior of these asteroids are also a record of their subsequent evolution over the past 4.5 billion years. To get samples from Ryugu, Hayabusa 2 It had to travel about 300 kilometers (200 million miles) from Earth to meet NEA Ryugu as it passed outside Earth’s orbit.
Once all Hayabusa 2 samples have been removed and analyzed, half of them will be shared between JAXA, NASA and other international organizations. The remainder will be reserved for future study as technical developments allow for more detailed analyzes and studies. Meanwhile, Hayabusa 2 is now moving to meet its next targets as part of its mission extension.
This extension was granted in September 2020 to include asteroid rich in Thulin (red color) 2001 CC21 And rich in water NEA 1998 KY26, Which is believed to be composed of material from multiple asteroids that collided in the past. The probe will make flights of these asteroids in July 2026 and July 2031 (respectively).
Besides revealing things about the history of our solar system, these icy asteroids can tell us how water was distributed between the planets billions of years ago (making life possible)!