Thursday , June 8 2023

A capsule containing Japan’s first asteroid samples has successfully landed in Australia



The Japanese capsule, which carried the first samples of the asteroid underground, was launched during the night before landing successfully on the remote Australian Outback early Sunday to provide clues to explain the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft released the small capsule on Saturday and sent it to Earth from a remote asteroid to provide samples. About 10 miles above the ground, a parachute was opened to slow the fall and beacon signals were emitted to locate it in the sparsely populated Woomera area of ​​southern Australia.

Two hours after entering, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency said the capsule was found at the planned landing site by the helicopter search team. The recovery of the 40-centimeter (15-inch) diameter capsule-shaped capsule was completed within another two hours.

“Capsule collection work has been completed at the landing site,” the agency said in a tweet. “We’ve practiced a lot today … it’s over for sure.”

Returning the capsule with the return of ground samples from the world’s first asteroid, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully touched and carried samples of the surface of the asteroid Bennu and will come in a few weeks. Meanwhile, China reported this week that the Earth’s moon has collected underground samples and sealed them in a spacecraft to return to Earth as space-developing nations are competing in their missions.

Thomas Zurbuchen, a Swiss astrophysicist and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Missions Directorate, congratulated the Japanese space agency and “made this possible for many people in Japan and beyond.”

Zurbuchen wrote on Twitter: “Together we will better understand the origin of our solar system, and the source of water and organic molecules that can sow life on Earth.”

Fireballs could also be seen from the International Space Station. A Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who is now on a six-month mission, wrote this tweet: “I saw # hayabusa2 from #ISS! Unfortunately it’s not bright enough for a handheld camera, but I loved seeing the capsule!

Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) ago a year ago. After releasing the capsule, it moved away from Earth to capture images of the capsule descending to the planet, on a new expedition to another distant asteroid.

The capsule dropped 220,000 kilometers after separating from Hayabusa2 in a difficult operation that required precision control. JAXA officials have said they expect to carry out a preliminary safety inspection at an Australian laboratory and take the capsule to Japan early next week.

Valuable data

Dozens of JAXA employees have been working on Woomera to prepare for the return of the sample. A satellite dish was installed to receive signals at various locations in the target area of ​​the Australian Air Force test area.

Trevor Ireland, a space rock expert at the National University of Australia, who was in Woomera for the arrival of the capsule, said the Ryugu sample was expected to be similar to a meteorite that struck Australia near Murchison in Victoria state more than 50 years ago.

“The Murchison meteorite opened a window into the origin of the Earth’s organics, which found that these rocks contained simple amino acids and a large amount of water,” Ireland said. “We will examine whether Ryugu is a potential source of organic matter and water. When the Earth was creating the Solar System, and these are still on the asteroid, they are still at it.”

Scientists say the samples, mostly taken from the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data that is not affected by space radiation and other environmental factors. They are particularly interested in the study of organic materials in samples.

JAXA hopes to learn how to distribute materials in the solar system and find traces related to life on Earth. Makoto Yoshikawa Hayabusa2, head of the project, said 0.1 grams of dust would be enough to carry out all the planned research.

For Hayabusa2 it is not the end of the mission he started in 2014. Now he goes to a small asteroid called 1998KY26, on a 10-year round trip to find ways to prevent meteorites from hitting Earth.

So far, his mission has been a complete success. He touched Ryugu twice despite the very rocky surface of the asteroid, and collected data and samples in June 1 after spending 1 years in the vicinity of Ryugu.

In his first touch in February 2019, he collected surface dust samples. In a more difficult mission in July of that year, he collected underground samples of the asteroid for the first time in space history after the asteroid exploded to land in a crater it had created earlier.

Asteroids that orbit the sun but are much smaller than the planets are among the oldest objects in the solar system, so they can help explain the evolution of the Earth.

Ryugu in Japanese means “Dragon’s Palace”, the name of a castle on the sea floor of the Japanese fairy tale town.


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