Japan’s space agency (JAXA) said Tuesday the Hayabusa2 space probe mission has been a perfect success and the goal of bringing back samples from a distant asteroid has been achieved. It even collected the first samples of gas from space clearly different from the air on Earth. The researchers also said the gas contained in the storage unit was from the asteroid. Kyushu University scientist Ryuji Okazaki said that gases could be related to minerals in asteroid soil and he hoped to identify the gaseous samples and determine their age.Soil samples in photos shown in Tuesday’s presentation looked like heaps of dark coffee grounds mixed with granules. JAXA project manager Tsuda Yuichi said it was a dream come true.
The agency said that in total, Hayabusa2 was scheduled to make three landings on the asteroid and collect soil, rock and gas samples and would stay close to Ryugu for one and a half years. Mr Tsuda called the successful return of the asteroid samples “a major scientific milestone”. Scientists are hoping samples from the asteroid’s subsurface can provide information from billions of years ago. Following studies in Japan, some of the samples will be shared with NASA and other international space agencies for additional research beginning in 2022.