Japan’s Hayabusa2 delivers rock samples from asteroid Ryugu Dec 6, 2020 14:14:30 GMT 10
Post by Wayne Smith on Dec 6, 2020 14:14:30 GMT 10
Japan’s Hayabusa2 delivers rock samples from asteroid Ryugu
Japan’s space agency has retrieved a capsule carrying the first rock samples from beneath the surface of an asteroid that scientists say could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on our planet.
The spacecraft Hayabusa2 released the small capsule on Saturday and sent it towards Earth to deliver samples from the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometres (180 million miles), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.
“The capsule collection work at the landing site was completed,” the agency said in a tweet about four hours after the capsule landed.
“We practiced a lot for today … it ended safe.”
The return of the capsule with the world’s first asteroid subsurface samples comes weeks after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made a successful touch-and-go grab of surface samples from asteroid Bennu. China, meanwhile, announced this week its lunar lander collected underground samples and sealed them within the spacecraft for return to Earth, as space-developing nations compete in their missions.
Early on Sunday, the capsule briefly turned into a fireball as it re-entered the atmosphere 120 km (75 miles) above Earth.
At about 10 km (6 miles) above ground, a parachute was opened to slow its fall and beacon signals were transmitted to indicate its location.
“It was great … It was a beautiful fireball, and I was so impressed,” said JAXA’s Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda as he celebrated the successful capsule return and safe landing from a command centre in Sagamihara, near Tokyo.
“I’ve waited for this day for six years.”
The capsule descended from 220,000 km (136,700 miles) away after it was separated from Hayabusa2 in a challenging operation that required precision control.
About two hours after the capsule’s re-entry, JAXA said its helicopter search team found the capsule in the planned landing area in a remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera, Australia. The retrieval of the pan-shaped capsule, about 40 centimetres (15 inches) in diameter, was completed about two hours later.
JAXA officials said they hoped to conduct a preliminary safety inspection at an Australian lab and bring the capsule back to Japan early next week.