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First look at Ryugu samples

Japanese scientists have taken their first look at the Ryugu sample material brought back by Hayabusa-2 and found they resemble charcoal.

The samples Japanese space officials described Thursday are as big as 1 centimeter (0.4 inch) and rock hard, not breaking when picked up or poured into another container. Smaller black, sandy granules the spacecraft collected and returned separately were described last week.

…The sandy granules the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency described last week were from the spacecraft’s first touchdown in April 2019.

The larger fragments were from the compartment allocated for the second touchdown on Ryugu, said Tomohiro Usui, space materials scientist. To get the second set of samples in July last year, Hayabusa2 dropped an impactor to blast below the asteroid’s surface, collecting material from the crafter so it would be unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.

Usui said the size differences suggest different hardness of the bedrock on the asteroid. “One possibility is that the place of the second touchdown was a hard bedrock and larger particles broke and entered the compartment.”

The analysis of these samples has only just begun. Dating them is likely next, and that will probably reveal some startling results.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • James Street

    Fascinating. Congratulations to Japan on a great technological and scientific achievement.

    America’s first space station Skylab also landed in Australia in its uncontrolled 1979 crash. At the time one NASA official caused an international kerfuffle when he said that Australia was as good a place as any for it to crash because there were only kangaroos there.

    The Aussies had a great sense of humor about it. One of them sold t-shirts with a target on them and said the U.S. government couldn’t do anything right so wearing a target would ensure your safety.

    This archived NY Times article mentions the NASA comment:

  • Steve Richter

    why would the age of the Ryugu material be expected to be anything different for that of Earth? The Earth and Ryugu having both been formed from the same dust cloud that became our solar system?

    But then the dust cloud that became the solar system would not have originated from a single super nova star. Would have to be multiple dust clouds, with the solar system finally forming when enough dust clouds had merged to provide a critical mass to collapse into the Sun? Sure seems speculative.

  • Steve Richter: Think of the epochs and eons on Earth. These different layers have different ages, because they formed at different times. Once laid out in sequence they tell you much about the geological history of their location.

    One asteroid is likely only going to give a single age, though it is not impossible for there to be rocks from many places with different ages each. Accumulate data from enough asteroids, correlate that with their orbital history, and you can begin to map out their sequence of formation, which will then begin to give you the sequence of formation of the solar system, in its early days.

  • Lee Stevenson

    I own a couple of meteorites, one iron and one carbonaceous chondrite (think rock), and they are dramatically different. All the missions so far have or are visiting rubble piles which are made up of mostly rock. I would be very interested in a visit to an iron asteroid. Certainly no guarantee of a sample return, but a good look at one would be useful from a planetary defence perspective. I would rather have a rubble pile heading towards me than a solid lump of metal!
    @Steve Richter, as Bob says, the diversity of types of astroids give different insights into the stuff that makes up our solar system. The fact that there are solid metal ones means there was once at least one body that was big enough for the heavy elements to sink to its core. This also means it had a differentiated outer layer, before presumably getting smashed into bits at some point. ( Unless it was the Vogons!)
    So every data point from different astroids gives a different window into the evolution of the solar system… And the fact that most asteroids live between Mars and Jupiter can not be a coincidence, but as far as I know there is no consensus so far as to why. ( I personally blame the Vogons… It’s a Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy reference, essential reading for fans of comedy sci-fi!)

  • Lee Stevenson: In case you are unaware, there is one mission, dubbed Psyche, that is heading to Psyche, a metal asteroid. It is scheduled to launch in ’22 on a Falcon Heavy.

  • Lee Stevenson

    Thank you Bob!!! A double whammy! A mission I have been longing for on my favourite launch vehicle!
    I’m now off to Google the mission… Thanks for the tip off! ( I should really pay more attention I guess… Shame on me for missing this one!)

  • mkent

    Lee: If you missed Psyche you may also have missed Lucy, which was announced at the same time. It is scheduled to launch in Nov 2021 and visit one main belt asteroid and seven Jupiter trojans. Seems like something you may be interested in.

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