Japanese researchers discovered 20 amino acids for the first time in samples returned from an asteroid. Now everyone is queuing up to get a piece of the asteroid.
Hayabusa 2, launched in 2014, touched down on Ryugu twice, despite its extremely rocky surface. (Representative image/Pixabay)
As many as 40 scientific proposals have been accepted from research teams around the world as everyone queues to get a piece of the asteroid hiding the material for life. The selected proposals are from nine countries, requesting 74 sample grains, which is 230 milligrams of the total asteroid samples collected.
A spacecraft named Hayabusa 2 returned a sample capsule containing material collected from the C-type asteroid Ryugu in December 2020. The Japanese researchers then identified 20 amino acids in the samples.
Amino acids are molecules that combine to form proteins and are the building blocks of life. These molecules are essential for living beings as they help in breaking down food, growth, repair of body tissues and performing many other bodily functions. They can also be used by the body as a source of energy.
These amino acids have previously been found in asteroids that fell to Earth. However, they were barely quantified because they were lost during entry through Earth’s atmosphere which burns up and forms plasma. The discovery of 20 of these major components confirms the presence of organic matter in these remains from the formation of the Solar System.
Following the discovery, research teams were invited to submit a scientific proposal requesting grains from the sample for a planned analysis by April 22, 2022. The Ryugu Sample Research Open Call Committee discussed submissions from 12 countries and selected 40 of the proposals, which were then approved by the Hayabusa2 Sample Allocation Committee on June 13, 2022.