Japanese probe Hayabusa2 fires ‘bullet’ at asteroid in bid to discover how life began

A Japanese space probe on a data-collecting mission has shot a sampling ‘bullet’ into the surface of the Ryugu asteroid, hoping to retrieve organic material that could clue scientists in to how life was first seeded on Earth.

The Hayabusa2 probe used a device called a sampler horn to fire a tantalum projectile “bullet” at the surface of Ryugu, breaking off tiny fragments that are then collected and brought home for analysis. Scientists are on the lookout for amino acids or other organic molecules among the carbon-rich material that makes up C-type asteroids like Ryugu – compounds which could have given rise to the first life on earth under the right reactive conditions.