Japan’s asteroid samples faced pandemic, traffic jams on Earth

Collecting rocks from an asteroid is rocket science; getting them to the lab is another story.

Take Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission, which launched in 2014 to grab pieces of a near-Earth asteroid called Ryugu and delivered those samples to Earth in December 2020. Even when the space rocks reached Japan, the traveling wasn’t quite over. That’s because some of the asteroid material had another flight to catch in order to reach NASA’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) center at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Texas.

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