Toast Japan's Hayabusa2 Mission with These Ryugu-Themed Drinks

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THE WOODLANDS, Tex. — The asteroid Ryugu may be surprisingly dry, but that doesn't mean you have to be. If, over the coming months, you feel the urge to raise a glass to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s sample-return mission Hayabusa2, you have plenty of alcoholic options that fit the situation. A handful of mission-inspired alcoholic choices have taken the sample return mission as their theme.

"Ryugu is very popular," Sho Sasaki, a Hayabusa2 team member from Osaka University in Japan, told his colleagues this week at the 50th annual Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. In the middle of describing the surface of the asteroid, he revealed a photograph of a bottle of Ryugu vodka.

"I like Ryugu," he said with a laugh.

The label of this Touchdown beer celebrates Hayabusa2's sample collection. (Image credit: Yatsugatake Beer)

Vodka wasn't the only alcohol Sasaki revealed to a packed room of mostly American scientists. He also posted an image of Touchdown beer, produced by Yatasugtake Beer. The bottle's logo and website both display a silhouette of Hayabusa2 as it collects its sample from the asteroid Ryugu against a background of stars.

The third beverage celebrating the achievements of JAXA is only tangentially related to the current mission. To celebrate the return of the original Hayabusa sample-return mission, a sake company released a specially labeled bottle of Hayabusa sake, according to a post on the blog Jei's Japan News Network. Often referred to as "rice wine," sake [pronounced SAH-key] is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. 

This sake celebrated Japan's Hayabusa mission to the asteroid Itokawa. (Image credit: Orange Jelly/Kikaku Nihonsyu Kura via Wayback Machine)

Like its successor, Hayabusa visited an asteroid, the irregular Itokawa, and returned a sample to Earth. According to the blog, the sake company created an artist's impression of the spacecraft if it were an anime girl for one of the labels. The other label shows an image of Hayabusa collecting a sample from the asteroid.

While both Touchdown and Hayabusa are clearly linked to space missions, the Ryugu vodka's origin is a bit more nebulous. The asteroid itself was named for an undersea dragon place in Japanese folklore, so the vodka could easily take its name from fantasy instead of science.

Regardless, the trio provides an excellent way to toast the incredible mission.

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Nola Taylor Tillman
Contributing Writer

Nola Taylor Tillman is a contributing writer for She loves all things space and astronomy-related, and enjoys the opportunity to learn more. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Astrophysics from Agnes Scott college and served as an intern at Sky & Telescope magazine. In her free time, she homeschools her four children. Follow her on Twitter at @NolaTRedd