Hayabusa2 became the first spacecraft in the world to successfully collect samples from the subsurface of Ryugu in 2019, sending 5.4 grams of rocks and sand back to Earth.

Yukia Watanabe (Sankei Shimbun), JAPAN Forward

Where did life originate? The initial analysis of rocks and sand collected from the asteroid Ryugu by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft began in June to solve this ever-elusive mystery.

A chemical analysis team led by Hokkaido University researchers also began examining the samples using X-rays at Horiba Techno Service in Minami Ward, Kyoto City, a company specializing in research and analytical equipment. Hopes are high that the team will find the clues to one of the most perplexing mysteries of the world: the origins of life and the formation of the solar system.

Tomoko Numata, a member of the chemical analysis team and general manager of Horiba’s analytical technology division, expressed her excitement during the project’s kick-off event at its Kyoto headquarters on June 24.

“Analyzing the precious samples, which were collected through a meeting of the greatest minds, comes with great responsibility. I’m excited to have the privilege to analyze information that has been measured for the first time in human history.”

The samples available to the chemical analysis team are very small, less than 100 milligrams in total, and about one-third or 30 milligrams will be analyzed by Horiba.

Horiba was chosen because it boasts the world’s most accurate X-ray technology and specializes in equipment that can analyze samples as miniscule as one milligram.

By directing X-ray beams on a sample and analyzing the unique light emitted by each element, called “fluorescent X-rays,” Horiba will be able to discover the type and amount of each element contained in the material.


By - grape Japan editorial staff.