The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has recently announced that preliminary examinations of particles removed from the sample canister of the Hayabusa Sample Return Mission have shown that asteroidal materials were, indeed, recovered from asteroid Itokawa. A press release, in English, can be found at: http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2010/11/20101116_hayabusa_e.html
(or see http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2010/11/20101116_hayabusa_j.html for the original Japanese version). Dr. Scott Sandford, of NASA’s Ames Research Center is one of the two US Sample Scientists on the Hayabusa Team (the other being Dr. Mike Zolensky of NASA-JSC).
Sandford and Zolenksy participated in the initial laboratory analyses that demonstrated the sample container returned at least several thousand tiny particles from the asteroid (typical particles are in the 3-50 micron diameter range). This is enough material that continued studies will be able to establish a precise match of the asteroid sample to terrestrial meteorite collections. JAXA is now preparing to distribute samples to the Hayabusa Sample Preliminary Examination Team (HASPET) for detailed analyses. Sandford and Zolensky are on HASPET and will participate in these activities as well.