National Aeronautics and Space Administration has received its first sample of asteroid Ryugu that returned to Earth in December 2020 by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

  • Ryugu Samples is one of the first samples to leave Japan for preliminary investigation.
  • Mike Zolensky was one of the first scientists to examine these sample so as to determine its basic nature.
  • Sample analyses were performed in Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab in Structural Engineering Division of Johnson.

Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu or 162173 Ryugu is provisionally designated as 1999 JU3. It is a near-Earth object and a potentially hazardous asteroid belonging to Apollo group. It is approximately 1 km in diameter. It is a dark object of rare spectral type Cb. It has qualities of C-type asteroid as well as B-type asteroid. Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 arrived at this asteroid in the year 2018. It left Ryugu for Earth in November 2019 after making measurements and taking samples. It returned sample capsule to Earth in December 2020.


Asteroid Ryugu was discovered in May 1999 by astronomers with Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research at Lincoln Lab’s ETS in USA. It was given provisional designation of 1999 JU3. It was officially named as “Ryugu” by Minor Planet Center in September 2015. Name refers to Ryugu-ju (Dragon Palace) which is a magical underwater palace in Japanese folktale.


The asteroid sample-return mission is operated by JAXA. It is the successor of Hayabusa mission. It returned asteroid samples first time in June 2010. Hayabusa2 was launched on 3rd December 2014. Its mission has been extended till 2031.

NASA receives 1st Sample of Asteroid Ryugu NASA receives 1st Sample of Asteroid Ryugu