September 26, 2022

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Everyone wants a pill: Countries line up to get a piece of the asteroid that hides ingredients for life

Japanese researchers have for the first time discovered 20 amino acids in samples returned from an asteroid. Now everyone is lining up to get a piece of the asteroid.

Hayabusa2 was launched in 2014 and landed on Ryugu twice, despite its very rocky surface. (Actor/Pixabay photo)

Up to 40 scientific proposals have been accepted from research teams around the world as everyone queues up for a piece of the asteroid that hides lifelong components. Selected proposals from nine countries, request 74 grain samples, which is 230 mg of the total asteroid samples collected.

A spacecraft called Hayabusa2 returned a capsule sample containing material collected from the Type C asteroid Ryugu to Earth in December 2020. 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 to living organisms because they help break down food, grow, repair body tissues, and perform many other bodily functions. It can also be used by the body as an energy source.

These amino acids were previously discovered in asteroids that fell to Earth. However, it has hardly been quantified because it is lost during entry through Earth’s atmosphere burning and creating plasma. The discovery of 20 of these key components confirms the presence of organic matter in these remnants of the formation of the solar system.

After the discovery, the research teams were invited to submit a scientific proposal requesting grains from the sample for planned analysis by April 22, 2022. The Ryugu Sample Open Research Call Committee discussed submissions from 12 countries and selected 40 submissions, which were then approved by the Hayabusa2 Sample Allocation Committee on June 13, 2022 .

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