Tokyo: Japan`s space agency said it had
found a trace of gas today in a capsule thought to contain
asteroid dust that was brought back to Earth after a
multi-billion-kilometre space journey.
Researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency`s
Sagamihara Campus in Kanagawa began opening the Hayabusa
capsule, a process expected to take about a week, JAXA said.
Using an optical microscope, they plan to analyse the
inside of the container, which was shielded by a Frisbee-sized
Opening the capsule today, they collected a trace of gas,
a JAXA spokeswoman said.
"We still don`t know exactly what kind of gas it is, but
the researchers confirmed a trace of low-pressured gas in the
capsule," she said.
Scientists hope any dust samples from the ancient
asteroid in the capsule could help reveal secrets about the
origins of the solar system.
"If the capsule contains fragments of at least 10 micron
(0.01 millimetre), researchers can make an analysis," the
But it will take at least a few more months before they
determine whether the sample comes from the potato-shaped
Itokawa asteroid or not.
After a seven-year space odyssey, the heat-proof pod was
fired back to Earth by the Hayabusa probe earlier this month
after a five billion kilometre journey.
Technical problems plagued Hayabusa, which at one stage
spun out of control and lost contact with JAXA for seven
weeks, delaying the mission for three years until the asteroid
and Earth re-aligned.
When it finally latched onto the Itokawa asteroid, a
pellet-firing system designed to stir up dust malfunctioned,
leaving it unclear how much material the probe was able to