Asteroid samples leave scientists ‘speechless’

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TOKYO: Scientists in Japan said on Tuesday they were left “speechless” when they saw how much asteroid dust was inside a capsule delivered by the Hayabusa-2 space probe in an unprecedented mission.

The Japanese probe collected surface dust and pristine material last year from the asteroid Ryugu, around 300 million kilometres (200 million miles) away, during two daring phases of its six-year mission.

This month it dropped off a capsule containing the samples, which created a fireball as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere, and landed in the Australian desert before being transported to Japan.

Scientists at the Japanese space agency JAXA on Tuesday removed the screws to the capsule’s inner container.

“When we actually opened it, I was speechless. It was more than we expected and there was so much that I was truly impressed,” said JAXA scientist Hirotaka Sawada. “It wasn’t fine particles like powder, but there were plenty of samples that measured several millimetres across.”

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