TOKYO: The Japanese space agency said its helicopter search team has seen a capsule containing asteroid samples that could explain the origin of life, which landed in a remote area in South Australia as scheduled on Sunday (Dec. 6).
Hayabusa2 had successfully released the tiny capsule on Saturday and sent it to Earth to deliver samples from a distant asteroid that could provide clues to the origins of the solar system and life on our planet, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.
Early Sunday, the capsule briefly turned into a fireball when it entered the atmosphere 120 kilometers above Earth. About 10 kilometers (6 miles) above the ground, a parachute had to open to slow its fall and beacon signals had to be emitted to indicate its location.
“It was amazing … It was a beautiful fireball and I was so impressed,” said Yuichi Tsuda, JAXA Project Manager, Hayabusa2, celebrating the capsule’s successful return and safe landing from a command center in Sagamihara. near Tokyo. I’ve been waiting for this day for six years. “
Beacon signals have been detected, suggesting that a parachute has also been successfully opened and that the capsule has landed safely in a remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera, Australia, JAXA official Akitaka Kishi said.
About two hours after the capsule’s return, JAXA said the helicopter research team had found the capsule in the planned landing area. Retrieval of the pan-shaped capsule, about 40 centimeters in diameter, will begin after sunrise, Kishi said.
The fireball could even be seen from the International Space Station. A Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, now on a six-month mission there, tweeted, “Just saw # hayabusa2 from #ISS! Unfortunately not bright enough for a handheld camera, but I enjoyed looking at capsule! “
Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu, some 300 million kilometers away, a year ago. After it released the capsule, it moved away from Earth to capture photos of the capsule descending to the planet as it headed for another expedition to another distant asteroid.
The capsule descended from 136,000 miles into space after being separated from Hayabusa2 in a challenging operation that required close monitoring.
JAXA employees were standing by and now they are taking action to locate the capsule, which some people call “a treasure chest.” JAXA officials said they hoped to pick up the capsule in an Australian lab before a preliminary security inspection Sunday night and bring it home early next week.
Dozens of JAXA employees have worked in Woomera to prepare the sample return. They have set up satellite dishes at various locations in the target area within the Australian Air Force test field to pick up the signals. They will also use marine radar, drones, and helicopters to assist in the search and retrieval of the pan-shaped capsule.
Australian National University space rock expert Trevor Ireland, who is in Woomera for the capsule’s arrival, said he expected the Ryugu samples to be similar to the meteorite found in Australia near Murchison in the state more than 50 years ago. Victoria fell.
“The Murchison meteorite opened a window into the origins of organic matter on Earth, as these rocks were found to contain both simple amino acids and abundant water,” said Ireland. “We will investigate whether Ryugu was a potential source of organic matter and water on Earth when the solar system was forming, and whether they are still intact on the asteroid.”
Scientists say they believe the samples, especially samples taken below the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors. They are particularly interested in analyzing organic materials in the samples.
JAXA hopes to find clues as to how the materials are distributed in the solar system and relate to life on Earth. Yoshikawa, the mission manager, said 0.1 grams of dust would be enough to conduct all planned studies.
For Hayabusa2, this isn’t the end of the mission it started in 2014. It is now heading for a small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey that will take 10 years one way, for possible research including finding ways to prevent meteorites from hitting Earth.
So far his mission has been completely successful. It landed twice on Ryugu despite the asteroid’s extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples over the 1.5 years it spent near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.
On its first landing in February 2019, it collected surface dust samples. In a more challenging mission in July of that year, it collected underground samples of the asteroid for the first time in space history after landing in a crater it had previously created by destroying the asteroid’s surface.
Orbiting the Sun but much smaller than planets, asteroids are among the oldest objects in the Solar System and may therefore help explain how Earth evolved.
Ryugu means “Dragon Palace” in Japanese, the name of a seabed castle in a Japanese folk tale.