Amino Acids Found In Asteroid Samples Collected By Japan Space Probe
A government official revealed Monday, June 6, 2022, that samples delivered to Earth by Japan's Hayabusa2 space mission from an asteroid in late 2020 contained more than 20 types of amino acids, demonstrating for the first time that organic molecules exist on asteroids in space, Mainichi Japan reported.
Photo Insert: A JAXA rendering of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's asteroid explorer Hayabusa 2 approaching asteroid Ryugu
The discovery could contain clues to understanding the origins of life, the education ministry stated, because amino acids are required for all living organisms to form proteins.
Hayabusa2 delivered more than 5.4 grams of surface material from the Ryugu asteroid, which is located over 300 million kilometers distant, to Earth in December 2020, after a six-year mission.
Ryugu's mission was to uncover the mysteries of the solar system's and life's origins. Water and organic debris were found in the samples, according to previous analyses.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and research institutions across the island country, including the University of Tokyo and Hiroshima University, began a complete investigation of the sample in 2021.
Although it is not known how amino acids arrived on ancient Earth, one theory says they were brought by meteorites, with amino acids being detected in a meteorite found on Earth.
But there is also a possibility that they were attached to the ground. Meteors reaching the Earth burn up as they hit the atmosphere and become contaminated with terrestrial microorganisms.
Hayabusa2 was groundbreaking in that it collected subsurface materials not weathered by sunlight or cosmic rays, and delivered them to Earth unexposed to outside air. Kensei Kobayashi, professor emeritus of astrobiology at Yokohama National University, said the unprecedented discovery of multiple types of amino acids on an extraterrestrial body could even hint at the existence of life outside of Earth.