Methods and tools for handling, transportation, weighing, and pelletization applied to the initial analysis of volatile components in the Hayabusa2 samplesOPEN ACCESS 

Ryuji Okazaki, Shinji Yamanouchi, Kazuhiko Shimada, Atsushi Baba, Fumio Kitajima & Toru Yada 

Earth, Planets and Space, Volume 74, Article number: 190
Published: 27 December 2022


“The Hayabusa2 spacecraft succeeded in sampling and returning materials from the C-type, near-Earth asteroid (162173) Ryugu. As part of the Hayabusa2 Initial Analyses, chemical and isotopic compositions of volatile species were measured. The samples analyzed were grains of about 1 mm in diameter and were individually treated without exposure to Earth’s atmosphere throughout the entire analytical/experimental processes to minimize alteration and contamination effects by adsorption of Earth’s atmosphere or chemical reactions with reactive species such as oxygen and water in Earth’s atmosphere. In order to perform spectroscopic and electron-microscopic observations in advance of a series of the isotopic measurements, the sample surface needed to be smoothed. We employed a pelletization method to obtain the required flatness for the returned samples because pelletization is a less sample-consuming method compared to mechanical polishing, microtomy, or ion milling. In order to perform the subsequent analyses, the samples must undergo minimal contamination during the pelletization procedure and be easy to remove from the pelletization tools. Therefore, embedding with resins or low-melting-point metals was not employed. Under these constraints, tools and methods for sample pelletization, handling, and transportation were developed. The tools developed for pelletization and housing also contributed to easier handling of small (less than about 1 mm in diameter) samples. Here we describe the methods and the tools that enable treatment of pristine asteroidal samples under non-atmospheric exposure conditions throughout transportation, weighing, pelletization, and installation into the instruments for chemical and isotopic measurements. The methods and tools we developed can be applied to other small samples including meteorites, cosmic dust, and future returned samples.”