The Hayabusa2 space probe capsule of Japan’s Hayabusa Aerospace Exploration Agency landed in Australia’s southern desert on Sunday, the agency said, carrying scientists hoping to find samples of the ancient asteroid Ryugu, which may help explain the origin of life.
The capsule was seen before dawn re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere as a bright ball of fire that lasted for tens of seconds as the heat shield it protected reached a temperature of approximately 3,000 C during its descent.
The space agency said it had located the landing site by helicopter and that the operation to return the capsule would take place on Sunday morning.
If its mission was successful, the capsule would contain two specimens of the asteroid Ryugu, including the first sample of an underground asteroid. Scientists believe that organic matter and water existed on the asteroid when the solar system was created about 4.6 billion years ago.
Check out these amazing pictures from # Хајабуса2 fireball taken from kuber paddy in south australia ☄️ It enters the Earth’s atmosphere at about 12 km per second and is one of the fastest man-made objects to fly in the Earth’s atmosphere. @ haya2e_jaxa @JAXA_en pic.twitter.com/ooFyIA7j8e
– Australian Space Agency (@AusSpaceAgence) December 5, 2020
They hope the pristine material believed to be contained in the specimens will help further research into the origins of life on Earth and the evolution of the solar system.
The capsule, which was released from the space probe on Saturday afternoon, is believed to have landed on an area of about 100 square kilometers within the restricted area of Wumera, an Australian military and civilian aerospace facility that is also one of the largest land test ranges in the world. .
Once the capsule has been collected, it will be taken to a “quick-view facility” in the Vumera area to analyze any gases that may be emitted from the asteroid material.
Although JAXA engineers are confident that they have created a tight seal around the capsule, the gaseous material can be easily lost, so testing will be performed as quickly as possible to obtain the most accurate readings.
Masaki Fujimoto, deputy director general of the YAKSA Institute for Space and Astronautical Sciences, said that if gases were detected, it would mean that asteroid samples had been successfully collected.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft made two landings on Ryugu to collect samples.
On the first landing in February 2019, the probe collected a surface sample of the asteroid. The second specimen, collected in July of that year, is the first underground asteroid specimen to be extracted since the creation of an artificial crater with a copper projectile.
The two samples will allow scientists to compare the composition above and below the surface.
Although Ryugu is believed to have undergone minimal change since the formation of the early solar system, scientists say the materials beneath the asteroid’s surface will not experience the same weather effects and potential contamination from other meteorite impacts as those on the surface.
At the beginning of the formation of the Earth, the planet was completely without water due to the close proximity of the sun. Scientists believe that after the Earth cooled, water and organic matter were delivered to it by meteorites with a composition similar to Ryugu.
The JAXA Recovery Mission is supported by the Australian Space Agency, established in July 2018 to develop the country’s space industry.
“This is certainly our first joint operation, where we are working on a mission with another country,” agency chief Megan Clark said in an interview. “It’s pretty exciting and exciting for us that our team can support Japan.
“We also learn a lot from all this. We learn a lot about when we are the ones who are nervous because that is going to be our mission,” Clark said.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft was launched from Japan’s Tanegashima space center in December 2014 and has covered more than 5 billion kilometers so far.
Unlike the original Hayabusa mission, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will not return to Earth. Instead, he will pursue an extended mission to explore the 1998KY26 asteroid.
While the Hayabusa2 mission has so far gone smoothly, the coronavirus pandemic has significantly disrupted JAKSA’s plans for capsule recovery surgery.
Travel restrictions have been reduced by a team of just 79 key travelers traveling from Japan to Australia.
Additionally, the team was quarantined twice – once in Japan and again when they arrived in Australia. However, an unexpected coronavirus outbreak in the Australian state of Wumera saw the entire country in a mandatory six-day blockade, delaying preparations.
Fujimoto said that without the support of the Australian Space Agency, “I do not think I would be here (in Wumera).”
Knowing that the Japanese team would be in isolation for two weeks after their arrival in Australia, Clark said the agency had compiled a “welcome package” of local South Australian wines, sweets and hand creams for their colleagues.
“It is difficult to make isolation, so we provided only a few gifts and food and made sure they had everything they needed to not feel alone,” she said.
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