Part of the Japanese Space Agency’s ongoing MINERVA-II-1 program, the Hayabusa-2 probe launched all the way back in 2014 and arrived in orbit around the asteroid Ryugu in 2018.
During its mission, the probe collected several samples of rocks and soil that were then sent back to the Earth for study inside a small capsule.
Earlier this month it was reported that the capsule, along with its precious cargo, had arrived back on terra firma safe and sound and now at last scientists have revealed what was inside.
Within chamber A of the three-chambered capsule, scientists found a significant quantity of a jet black sand-like material made up of particles ranging in size from large pebbles to tiny grains of dust.
The second chamber is expected to be empty, while the third, which has yet to be opened, should contain material that was collected from beneath the surface of the asteroid.
To acquire this, the probe had to use an explosive charge to propel a small projectile into the surface.
A detailed scientific analysis of the samples should provide a wealth of information about the asteroid including exactly what it is made of and how it originally came to form.
The probe even managed to capture some of the asteroid’s gases in the capsule as well.
“JAXA has confirmed that samples derived from the asteroid Ryugu are inside the sample container,” the space agency said. “We were able to confirm black, sand-like particles which are believed to be derived from the asteroid Ryugu.”
“We will continue our work to open the sample-catcher within the sample container. Extraction of the sample and analysis of it will be carried out.”