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Japan’s space agency said Tuesday a capsule brought back by the Hayabusa2 space probe last week from a distant asteroid contained the world’s first sample of a material in a gaseous state from deep space, probably emanating from the “substantial amount” of black, sandy asteroid dust collected by the probe — also a global first.

The agency has opened one of the three chambers within the probe’s sample container, and there are two more to come. The opened chamber holds samples collected in the probe’s first touchdown on the asteroid in February 2019.

The next one, due to be opened next year, should contain subsurface material dislodged after Hayabusa2 fired an “impactor” into the asteroid, creating a crater-style dent. Then things should get even more interesting.

Hayabusa2 capsule contains sand and gas from asteroid Ryugu
 | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
Hayabusa2 capsule contains sand and gas from asteroid Ryugu | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

Just try to get your head around it, enthuses a star-struck JT Editorial Board: Science now allows us to pluck pieces of our history from asteroids as they whiz by, possibly telling us something not only about that distant past but also offering insights into our own origins as well.

Next stop: the moon (again). Earlier this month, NASA said it has selected four companies, including Japanese startup Ispace and its subsidiary in Luxembourg, to collect samples from the moon’s surface as part of the U.S. space agency’s lunar exploration program.

“We are pleased to receive these two awards from NASA for what will be a historic moment for humankind,” Takeshi Hakamada, founder of Ispace, said. “This marks the beginning of a cislunar economy where economic value can be created on the moon, apart from Earth — but for the benefit of Earth’s economy.”

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