(Oct. 10) — Like something out of a sci-fi movie, did alien particles find their way inside a space probe that landed on an asteroid and returned to Earth?
That question was raised last week by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, according to Japanese news agencies. Scientists reportedly found small, odd particles inside Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft, which returned to Earth in June after a seven-year, 3-billion-mile journey that took it to an asteroid and back.
Hayabusa left Earth in 2003, destined to become the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid, one of the many small, rocky objects found in space generally between the planets Mars and Jupiter.After a more than two-year voyage, Hayabusa spent 30 minutes on the surface of an asteroid — dubbed Itokawa — and collected small samples of asteroid dust.Hayabusa’s mission was to get enough asteroid samples to help scientists learn more about the origins of our solar system. NASA researchers are helping JAXA in the examination of the spacecraft’s powder payload.
Whether the asteroid dust contains an unknown extraterrestrial life form may not be known for some time, as the analysis of the material will continue for several months.
“Although we have not yet analyzed the makeup of the particles, I personally think the particles include sand removed from the Itokawa asteroid,” said JAXA scientist Toshifumi Mukai
Recent electron microscope analysis detected some particles that display different characteristics from the dust already picked up by the spacecraft.