Hayabusa2 Asteroid Ryugu Samples
Photo of Asteroid Ryugu.
(Photo courtesy of JAXA)
The JAXA Hayabusa2 spacecraft returned 5 g of material from the surface of a primitive C-type asteroid, 162173 Ryugu on December 6, 2020. One of the sample collections targeted material exposed by the creation of an artificial crater that the Hayabusa2 spacecraft produced with a small 'carry-on impactor'. The spacecraft also deposited small landers onto Ryugu that returned remarkable images of the asteroid's surface. After an 18 month return journey from asteroid Ryugu, the sample return capsule parachuted to a soft landing on the Woomera Range Complex in the Australian outback. Preliminary examination of the samples is underway at the JAXA curation facility in Sagamihara, Japan where they are stored in vacuum and ultra-pure nitrogen containers.
The Hayabusa2 mission complements the Hayabusa mission to asteroid Itokawa and the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid 101955 Bennu, providing opportunities to study asteroidal material with well-known geological context in the laboratory. The scientific goals of the Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx missions are to understand the origins and histories of primitive, organic-rich asteroids and the formation of the planets. Preliminary studies of the Hayabusa2 samples show that the Ryugu regolith contains abundant water-rich minerals, organic matter, and high-temperature minerals that formed in the solar nebula. In December 2021, NASA received 500 mg of the Hayabusa2 samples that were hand-carried by JAXA curation staff to JSC. In return, NASA will share a portion of the OSIRIS-REx sample with JAXA after its return in 2023. NASA and JAXA curators are working closely together as we learn about the best ways to protect, store, and manipulate these precious samples.
Curators at JSC will prepare a catalogue of the properties of fine-grained materials and larger particles that comprise NASA's Hayabusa2 samples. This catalogue will be published on this website to enable scientists to prepare sample requests.