CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Replica samples of an asteroid that were brought back to Earth following a six-year Japanese-led collection mission in space are currently on display at the Camp Zama library here .
The replicas were based on samples from the “Ryugu” asteroid, from which the Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2 spacecraft was collected and returned in 2020. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, located near Camp Zama, first launched the mission in December 2014.
The library’s static display includes sample replicas, photos and facts about the Hayabusa2 mission, as well as a small model of the spacecraft.
Sagamihara City 3D printed 200 reproductions of the samples and allowed eligible organizations to apply to receive the samples for display. Sayuri Nagai, a community relations specialist assigned to public affairs at the U.S. Army Garrison Japan, said she applied as soon as she heard about the offer.
“I thought having the samples available here would be a great gateway for members of the Camp Zama community to learn more about Japan’s contributions to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. “, said Nagai.
Sagamihara City invited former USAG Japan commanders to tour JAXA facilities, including the current commander, Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, who also visited the Sagamihara City Museum next to the JAXA in December 2021 to see the real Hayabusa2 samples.
“I wanted the community here to have the same opportunity to learn more about the mission and to share the pride that Japan has for the Hayabusa2 project,” Nagai said.
After Camp Zama was selected as one of the recipients of the replicas, Nagai contacted James McGee, director of USAG Japan’s Visual Information Division, to ask for his help in setting up an exhibit.
McGee, who loves NASA and space exploration, immediately said yes to the project. He worked with Derek Mayhew, one of his graphic designers, to print photos and design the display, and even paid out of pocket for transparent display cases for samples and a miniature model of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft.
After the exhibit was completed, McGee requested and obtained permission from the Camp Zama Library to install it there.
“I think one of the things community members can learn from the exhibit is that new things are being discovered every day,” McGee said. “This discovery is important for understanding how these crucial organic molecules arrived on Earth.”
McGee said the exhibit shows only a small aspect of JAXA’s work, and the organization continues to explore the solar system in hopes of unlocking some of its many secrets. He calls this time an “exciting time” for scientists, astronomers and fans of space exploration.
“I want the Camp Zama community to know that JAXA, the Japanese equivalent of NASA, is literally in our backyard, minutes from Camp Zama, and they are doing amazing things in space and have a wonderful museum that would be interesting for the whole family,” McGee said.
Nagai agreed, saying the nearby towns of the facility, Sagamihara and Zama, offer many other great cultural and educational events for the public. USAG Japan Public Affairs regularly shares information about local cultural events and educational opportunities through social media.
The replicas will be on display until around July 20.