TOKYO – Japan Space Agency (JACSA) says signs indicate a capsule fired from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft has landed in a remote area of South Australia as planned. Contains the expected asteroid specimens that can help decipher the origin of life on our planet.
Hayabusa2 sent a small capsule to Earth on Saturday to deliver specimens that scientists hope will trace the origins of the solar system, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.
In the early hours of Australian time on Sunday, the capsule briefly turned into a ball of fire when it entered the atmosphere 75 miles above the Earth’s surface. About 10 miles[10 km]up, a parachute was programmed to open and the capsule to transmit signals to mark its location.
Such signals were detected, indicating that the parachute had successfully opened and that the capsule had landed in a remote and sparsely populated area of Wumera in eastern Australia, JAXA spokesman Akitaka Kishi said. He added that JAKSA personnel in a helicopter will perform an air search of the capsule.
Renewal of the capsule, about 40cm in diameter, will begin after sunset, he said.
Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu, about 180 million miles from Earth. After approaching our planet and dropping the capsule on Saturday, it moved away from Earth to photograph the origin of the capsule as it launched a new expedition to another distant asteroid.
The capsule descended 220,000 kilometers into space after separating from Hayabusa2, in a difficult operation that required very precise control.
About two hours later, JAXA said it would successfully redirect Hayabusa2 to its new mission as its overjoyed staff exchanged punches and elbows at the agency’s command center in Sagamihara, near Tokyo. Hugs were ruled out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have succeeded so far and when we complete the last mission to return the capsule, it will be perfect,” said mission chief Makoto Yoshikawa of the event’s command center, which was broadcast live on the Internet.
The ship will arrive in space with four astronauts on the spaceship from the private company SpaceX.
The samples, mostly from the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data that do not affect space radiation and other environmental factors common on Earth, scientists say. They are primarily interested in analyzing the organic matter contained in the samples.
JAXA hopes to find clues to the distribution of materials in the solar system and their relationship to life on Earth.