Asteroid Ryugu’s samples leave scientists ‘speechless’

The Japanese Hayabusa-2 spacecraft accomplished an incredible feat In February 2019 when it managed to collect dust from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, located hundreds of millions of miles from Earth.

Recently, the Hayabusa-2 sent a special package in South Australia: a small capsule containing traces of dust from the asteroid.

Scientists from Japan’s JAXA space agency on Tuesday opened the container and were impressed with the contents.

“When we actually opened it, I was speechless,” JAXA scientist Hirotaka Sawada said, as quoted by The Guardian.

“It was more than we expected and there was so much that I was truly impressed.”

Fine powder

The sample quality was excellent. “It wasn’t fine particles like powder, but there were plenty of samples that measured several millimeters across,” Sawada added, according to The Guardian.

Organic matter

The sample could even help in the exploration of the origins of life.

What the scientists found most exciting was that the samples apparently “contain plenty of organic matter,” as Hayabusa project scientist Seiichiro Watanabe put it, according to The Guardian.

“So I hope we can find out many things about how organic substances have developed on the parent body of Ryugu.”

50 per cent of the samples will go to NASA and other international organisations.

Hayabusa-2 will now visit two other asteroids before retiring. In 2026, the aircraft plans a high-speed flyby past asteroid 1998 KY 26.