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MELBOURNE – The Japanese spacecraft carrying the first large-scale samples of the asteroid has completed its six-year mission, landing safely in the far Australian outback, the Japan Space Agency said on Sunday.
The mission of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa2 tries to answer some basic questions about the origin of the solar system and where the molecules like water come from.
The spacecraft, launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center in 2014, took four years to reach the asteroid Ryugu before taking a sample and returning to Earth in November 2019.
Asteroids are believed to have formed at the dawn of the solar system, and scientists say this may contain organic matter that may have contributed to life on Earth.
Early Sunday, the capsule lit up as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and landed in the Vumera Forbidden Area, about 460 kilometers (285 miles) north of Adelaide, where it was found by scientists and taken to a local research station, JAKSA said.
“The helicopter carrying the capsule arrived at the local headquarters and the capsule was brought into the building,” the agency said on Twitter.
(Report by Melanie Burton; Edited by William Mallard)