A capsule released by Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft containing samples from a distant asteroid landed in South Australia after traveling three billion miles in a six-year journey.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) said the Hayabusa2 vehicle successfully released the small capsule on Saturday and sent it to Earth to provide samples from a distant asteroid called Ryugu, which will provide clues about the formation of our solar system and further life could earth.
The capsule briefly turned into a fireball as it reentered the atmosphere 75 miles above Earth.
About six miles above the ground, a parachute opened to slow its fall and beacon signals were sent to indicate the location of the capsule.
Japan space agency personnel traveled to South Australia this morning to pick up the capsule. A man carried the capsule after it burned through the Earth's atmosphere in the early hours of Sunday morning.
It was launched from the Hayabusa2 after the vehicle had traveled for six years and covered 3.2 billion miles.
When the vehicle enters the earth's atmosphere, the fireball will sweep across the sky on Saturday at around 5:28 p.m., i.e. on Sunday at 3 a.m. in Australia's Central Daylight Time (ACDT).
After traveling more than three billion miles, Hayabusa2 dropped a capsule over Australia, which was picked up Sunday by a member of the Japanese aerospace exploration agency
SCHEDULE: What happened in the six years between take-off and landing?
December 3, 2014: Started
December 3, 2015: Earth Flyby
June 27, 2018: Arrival at asteroid Ryugu
September 21, 2018: Two Minerva II1 Rovers deployed on asteroids
October 3, 2018: Use of the MASCOT lander on asteroids
October 14, 2018: Rehearsals for the asteroid landing begin
Early 2019: Use of an impactor followed by a touchdown to collect a sample
July 2019: Use of the remaining rovers
November to December 2019: Spaceship leaves asteroids
December 6, 2020: The Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample lands in South Australia.
Akitaka Kishi, a Jaxa official, said the signals detected by the agency traced the capsule back to the remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera, Australia.
Jaxa employees conducted a flight search and discovered the capsule.
Shortly after sunrise, staff made their way to the abandoned level and picked up the pan-shaped capsule, about 15 inches in diameter.
Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu a year ago, which is approximately 180 million miles away. After the vehicle released the capsule, it moved away from Earth to capture images of the capsule descending on the planet as it embarked on a new expedition to another distant asteroid.
The capsule descended from 136,700 miles in space after being separated from Hayabusa2 in a challenging operation that required precise control.
Jaxa staff have gone into operation to locate the capsule, which some commentators have dubbed the "treasure chest".
Officials said they were hoping to find the capsule by Sunday evening before a preliminary safety inspection at an Australian laboratory and then bring it to Japan early next week.
Dozens of Jaxa employees have worked in Woomera to prepare to return the sample.
They have set up satellite dishes in several locations in the target area within the Australian Air Force test field to receive the signals.
You will use marine radar, drones, and helicopters to aid in finding and retrieving the capsule.
Australian National University space rock expert Trevor Ireland, who is in Woomera because of the capsule's arrival, said he expected the Ryugu samples to resemble the meteorite found near Australia more than 50 years ago Murchison, Victoria, fell.
The capsule contains the first extensive samples of an asteroid called Ryugu. It lit up as it raced through the Earth's atmosphere before landing in South Australia this morning
As the capsule burned through Earth's atmosphere, a parachute opened about six miles above the ground to slow the fall, and beacon signals were sent to indicate the capsule's location.
Signals emitted by the capsule took them to the remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera in South Australia
After a flight search, Jaxa employees were deployed on the ground to pick up the 15-inch pan-shaped capsule on Sunday morning
The falling capsule left a bright streak across the night sky over South Australia when it fell to Earth after six years in space
The capsule re-entered the Earth's atmosphere as observed in Coober Pedy, Australia
He said, “The Murchison meteorite opened a window to the creation of organics on earth, as these rocks were found to contain simple amino acids and abundant water.
"We will investigate whether Ryugu was a potential source of organic matter and water on Earth when the solar system was formed, and whether these are still intact on the asteroid."
Scientists believe the samples, especially those taken from beneath the asteroid's surface, contain valuable data that is unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.
You are particularly interested in the analysis of organic materials in the samples.
Jaxa hopes to find clues as to how materials are distributed in the solar system and how they relate to life on earth.
Mission managers said only 0.1 grams of dust would be enough to carry out all of the planned research.
The capsule landed in Australia on Sunday after the Hayabusa 2 traveled more than 3 billion miles in six years
This computer graphic image published by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Hayabusa2 spaceship over the asteroid Ryugu
Members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) are seen during a media tour of the new Range Operations Center on the Woomera Test Range ahead of the Hayabusa2 Return Mission in Woomera, South Australia, on Saturday
For Hayabusa2, it is not the end of the mission that began in 2014. Now it's off to a tiny asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey that is slated to last 10 years – one possibility – for potential research, including finding ways to keep meteorites from hitting Earth.
So far his mission has been completely successful. The vehicle landed on Ryugu twice despite the asteroid's extremely rocky surface and successfully collected data and samples in the 18 months it spent near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.
Surface dust samples were collected on its first landing in February 2019.
In a challenging mission this July, Hayabusa2 collected subterranean samples of the asteroid for the first time in space history after landing in a crater previously created by blasting the asteroid's surface.
Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and can therefore help explain the evolution of the earth.
In Japanese, Ryugu means "Dragon Palace", the name of a castle on the sea floor in a traditional folk tale.
After releasing its precious cargo, Hayabusa2 will begin a second 10-year mission to rendezvous with a much smaller asteroid named 1998 KY26 in July 2031.
In 2014, Hayabusa2 was launched by an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima, Japan and came back to Earth with its ion motors last year.
Astronomer Brad Tucker said advancing technology has allowed space missions to regularly land on objects in space and return to Earth.
Just this week, China successfully landed a spaceship with its Chang & # 39; e-5 probe on the lunar surface to collect two kilograms of lunar material and help scientists learn more about the origins of the moon.
An artistic illustration of the rendezvous of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft with the asteroid Ryugu
The mission visited a previously unexplored area known as Oceanus Procellarum or "Ocean of Storms".
Dr. Tucker said such missions enabled scientists "to get our hands dirty and learn a lot about the solar system and our own planet".
"Future space and reconnaissance missions must be able to extract resources in space," he said.
"Missions like Hayabusa2 lay the foundation for this venture."
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