In June 2021, NASA received its first sample of asteroid Ryugu, which was returned to Earth in December 2020 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft. This is one of the first samples to leave Japan for preliminary investigation. As deputy leader of the mineralogy-petrology subteam for the preliminary analysis effort, Mike Zolensky was one of the first scientists to examine the sample to determine its basic nature. Alongside Zolensky, Jangmi Han from the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division, and James Martinez of the Structural Engineering Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston worked together to complete an investigation of the sample. Sample analyses were performed in the Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab in Johnson’s Structural Engineering Division. This was successfully completed within five days. Zolensky is one of a hundred investigators worldwide to receive a sample from JAXA. Preliminary sample analyses are continuing at Johnson. Studying carbonaceous asteroids like Ryugu could help scientists better understand how the solar system formed.
Image Credit: NASA