Japan has confirmed that its sample-return mission has brought back gas from asteroid Ryugu. According to the JAXA, the sample container inside the capsule of Hayabusa2 contains a gas sample. The agency said that a detailed analysis of the gas will help scientists to better understand the evolution of the solar system. The Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule returned to Earth on December 5. It landed in Woomera village of south Australia. The container was collected by a JAXA team and taken to Japan by a charter flight. JAXA said that a sample of grains of black sand inside the container was derived from asteroid Ryugu.
Hayabusa2 was launched by the JAXA in 2014. It arrived at Ryugu in June 2018. It collected samples from the Ryugu a year later. It left for Earth in November 2019. Ryugu was discovered in 1999. It is classified as a hazardous object. It belongs to the Apollo group. JAXA said that experts undertook an exercise to analyze the gas at the Quick Look Facility. The findings suggest that the gas inside the container differed from Earth’s atmospheric composition. The agency reconfirmed it after conducting a similar exercise a few days later at the Sagamihara campus. The results concluded that the gas in the container was derived from Ryugu.
According to JAXA, this is the first time when a space agency has brought back material in the gas from deep space. The asteroid is approximately 180 million miles away from Earth. It measures 0.6 miles in diameter. It orbits the Sun. Ryugu takes 474 days to complete one full orbit. The first image of the asteroid was released by the Japanese space agency in 2018. Hayabusa2 is a successor of Hayabusa. It was launched in 2003. It returned samples from asteroid Itokawa in 2010. Japan is the only space agency to return samples from an asteroid. Meanwhile, the US space agency NASA in October 2020 claimed that its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched down on asteroid Bennu to collect rubble from its surface.