CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Replicas of samples from an asteroid that were brought back to Earth following a six-year, Japan-led collection mission in space are currently on display at the Camp Zama Library here.
The replicas were based on samples from the asteroid “Ryugu,” from which the spacecraft Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2 collected and returned in 2020. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, which is located near Camp Zama, first launched the mission in December 2014.
The static display at the library includes the replica samples, photos and facts about the Hayabusa2 mission, and 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 U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs, said she applied as soon as she heard about the offer.
“I thought that by having the samples available for viewing here, it would be a great gateway for Camp Zama community members to learn about Japan’s contributions to science, technology, engineering and math,” Nagai said.
Sagamihara City has invited previous USAG Japan commanders to visit the JAXA facility, including the current commander, Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, who also visited the Sagamihara City Museum next to JAXA in December 2021 to view the real Hayabusa2 samples.
“I wanted the community here to have the same opportunity to learn about the mission and to share in 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 reached out to James McGee, manager of USAG Japan’s Visual Information Division, to ask for his help put together a display.
McGee, who has a love for 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 clear display cases for the samples and a miniature model of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft.
Once the display was complete, McGee asked and received permission from the Camp Zama Library to set it up there.
“I think one of the things that community members can learn from the display is that new things are being discovered every day,” McGee said. “This discovery is important for understanding how such crucial organic molecules arrived on Earth.”
McGee said the display shows just one small aspect of the work JAXA does, and that the organization continues to explore the solar system hoping to unlock some of its many secrets. He calls this era “exciting times” for scientists, astronomers and fans of space exploration.
“I want the Camp Zama community to know that JAXA, Japan’s equivalent to NASA, is literally in our backyard, just minutes from Camp Zama, and they are doing incredible things in space and have a wonderful museum that would be interesting to the whole family,” McGee said.
Nagai agreed, saying the installation’s neighboring cities of Sagamihara and Zama have many other great cultural and educational events available to the public. USAG Japan Public Affairs regularly shares information on local cultural events and educational opportunities via social media.
The replicas will be on display through approximately July 20.