Japanese Spacecraft’s Gifts: Asteroid Chips Like Charcoal

This optical microscope photo provided Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), shows soil samples, seen inside C compartment of the capsule brought back by Hayabusa2, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo. Japanese space officials said Thursday they found more asteroid soil samples collected and brought back from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, in addition to black sandy granules they found last week, raising their hopes of finding clues to the origins of the solar system. (JAXA via AP)

(AP) — They resemble small fragments of charcoal, but the soil samples collected from an asteroid and returned to Earth by a Japanese spacecraft were hardly disappointing. The asteroid pieces are rock hard and are bigger than the sandy granules the spacecraft also collected last year. The new samples described Thursday were obtained from below the surface of the distant asteroid Ryugu. A scientist says the size differences may mean the bedrock was harder at the second collection site. Scientists hope the samples will provide insight into the origins of the solar system and life on Earth. The spacecraft is now on an 11-year expedition to a even more distant asteroid for more study.


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