This morning, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, or Jaxa, confirmed that its mission to send asteroid models back to Earth had actually brought some space rocks home. The agency’s engineers discovered the black sand, which they believe was an asteroid inside the mission’s model container.
This is good news for the so-called Hayabusa 2, which was launched into space in 2014. The spacecraft was sent to the asteroid Ryu to collect samples of rocks from the surface of the object and bring them back to our planet for study. Hayapusa 2 scoops objects twice before moving from Ryu to Earth. This month the vehicle arrived and knocked over a bottle filled with asteroid models Landed in Australia on 5 December with the aid of a parachute.
To this day, Jaxa engineers do not know exactly what the spacecraft is Was Liked any models. Although the vehicle performed all of its prototype maneuvers in Riku as planned, there was no way for the mission team to ensure that the vehicle had any asteroid objects while in space. They had to wait until today when the sample container was first opened in a clean room in Japan.
The sample container inside the re-entry capsule was opened on December 14 and we confirmed that it contained black grains believed to have come from Riku. It is located outside the main chambers, and particles attached to the sample catcher entrance. (English release available tomorrow) https://t.co/NAw1R1cjvy pic.twitter.com/5BfXxfH29 m
– HAYABUSA2 JAXA (haya2e_jaxa) December 14, 2020
“Sample container opened inside re-entry capsule.” Jaxa wrote in a statement. “On March 14, a black sand granule sample believed to be derived from the asteroid Ryu was confirmed inside the sample container.”
The good news doesn’t stop there, because there may be more asteroid material that engineers have yet to reach. The black sand sample container discovered by Jaxa is located at the opening. There is a key chamber deep inside the as yet unopened container, which may contain most of the sample. The goal of this mission was to collect up to 100 milligrams of material from Ryuku. Engineers will know if they hit the target while diving deep into Hapusa 2’s stores.