Categories: AsteroidsMissions

Hayabusa Sample Return Canister Opened, Contains Material

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The sample return canister from the Hayabusa spacecraft has been opened, and does contain a small amount of dust particles, according to the JAXA website. This is very encouraging news! However, it is not yet known if the dust is from the asteroid Itokawa, where Hayabusa briefly touched down, or if it could be from Earth — left in the container from before launch, or it possibly could have made its way in there during the landing/post landing handling. “Material on the planet or asteroid or particulate matter is at this stage is unknown, we will consider in detail,” is the Google translate version of the JAXA press release. According to Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society, the dust grains are extremely small, about 0.01-millimeter in size, and there are about a dozen of them inside the container. This image was taken on June 28, 2010, and below is a magnified view of one of the particles.

Magnified view of a dust particle in the Hayabusa canister. Credit: JAXA

This magnified view was taken on June 29, and shows a magnified view of one very small particle being picked up by a quartz manipulator, which appears as a stripe on the image.
It likely will take several weeks to confirm whether the particles are from the asteroid, but if so, would be the first-ever asteroid sample return.

Below is an image of Earth that Hayabusa took as it approached the home planet.

Earth seen by the returning Hayabusa. Credit: JAXA

Sources: JAXA, The Planetary Society, BBC

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

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