Japanese space capsule filled with asteroid debris landed in Australia | NOW

The Japanese space agency is celebrating its own Pakjes Night on Saturday: a capsule containing soil samples from the distant asteroid Ryugu landed in a desert in southern Australia on Saturday evening. This is reported by the Japanese space agency JAXA. Earlier Saturday, the capsule disconnected from the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2, which is now flying on to the next asteroid. JAXA speaks of a ‘perfect operation’.

Just before 6:30 PM (Dutch time), the capsule entered the atmosphere and shortly afterwards confirmation came in that the object’s parachute had deployed successfully. The capsule was found and retrieved around 8:30 PM. JAXA now turns to the scientific investigation of the grit.

Hayabusa2 launched in December 2014 and arrived at the asteroid Ryugu in June 2018. In February 2019, the probe extracted a soil sample from the space rock and began its return trip to Earth. In 2030, it should arrive at the new target asteroid.

Australian authorities formally cleared the landing of the capsule in August this year. The 40 centimeter object landed in a remote area of ‚Äč‚ÄčAustralia between 6:47 PM and 6:57 PM.

The asteroid Ryugu is 900 meters in diameter and weighs about 450 million tons. Researchers hope to learn more about the origin of our solar system by analyzing the Ryugu samples, about 4.6 billion years ago.

A photo of asteroid Ryugu taken by the Japanese probe Hayabusa 2. (Photo: ISAS / JAXA)

NASA removed debris from asteroid Bennu in October

The US space agency NASA succeeded in collecting soil samples from the asteroid Bennu in October, when it was approximately 333 million kilometers from Earth. However, a valve on the probe had opened, losing some of the dust.

Still, the probe, called OSIRIS-Rex, has enough material on board to call the mission a success. In 2023, a capsule containing debris from OSIRIS-Rex must come down to Earth.

The Japanese mission is not the first time that an unmanned vehicle has returned samples from space to Earth. The first time was the Soviet mission Luna 16 in 1970. It successfully took 101 grams of lunar soil back to our planet.


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