A small capsule containing asteroid soil samples that was dropped from space by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft and landed in the Australian Outback arrived Dec. 7 in Tokyo for research into the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said its capsule, tightly sealed and carefully stored in a container box, arrived in Japan on a flight from Australia, attended by a group of JAXA officials.
At the end of its yearlong journey from asteroid Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometers from Earth, Hayabusa2 released the capsule Dec. 5 from 220,000 kilometers away from Earth, successfully sending it to land on a targeted area in a sparsely populated desert in Woomera.
The extremely high-precision work at the end of Hayabusa2’s six-year mission thrilled many Japanese.
The box with the capsule inside will be analyzed at JAXA’s research facility in Sagamihara.
Launched in December 2014, the unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down twice last year on the asteroid Ryugu. Despite an unexpectedly rocky surface, the spacecraft successfully collected data and soil samples ー on the surface and from underground.
Scientists say the samples, especially ones taken from under the asteroid’s surface, contain data from 4.6 billion years ago, unaffected by the sun’s radiation and other environmental factors. (AP)