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Capsule With Asteroid Sample Finally Lands On Earth After Six Years And Millions Of Miles

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 07 Dec 2020 09:00
Capsule With Asteroid Sample Finally Lands On Earth After Six Years And Millions Of Mileshaya2e_jaxa/Twitter

After six years, a Japanese space capsule containing a piece of the asteroid Ryugu has made its way back to Earth.

The capsule detached from the Hyabusa2 spacecraft some 130,000 miles from Earth, and landed in a remote area of Australia on Saturday, December 5, with the help of a parachute.

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The six-year-long mission, carried out by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), marks the first time scientists will have the chance to examine an asteroid that’s been unharmed from the journey onto Earth.

Capsule With Asteroid Sample Finally Lands On Earth After 6 Years And Millions Of Mileshaya2e_jaxa/Twitter

Ordinarily, asteroids become scorched as they enter the planet’s atmosphere, or are tainted by matter it comes into contact with after landing, making it difficult for scientists to get a clear picture of the material in its natural state.

After locating the capsule just outside of the town of Woomera in the Australian outback, JAXA tweeted, ‘We found the capsule! Together with the parachute! Wow!’

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The Hayabusu2 account later added:

Capsule collection! The helicopter team immediately flew to the location identified by the DFS team. They searched for the fallen capsule by using radio waves and maps. Thank you very much!

Capsule With Asteroid Sample Finally Lands On Earth After 6 Years And Millions Of MilesJAXA

Inside the capsule was a virtually untouched piece of Ryugu, which is an entirely black asteroid approximately a mile in width. The asteroid orbits between the Earth and Mars, located around 180 million miles away.

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It’s hoped that analysing the space rock will allow scientists to learn more about how Earth was formed, given that asteroids like Ryugu will also become planets of their own one day.

As JAXA explained, scientists believe that opening up the sample could lead them to being able to ‘approach the secrets of the birth of the solar system and the birth of life’, NPR reports.

But the journey to get to this point wasn’t easy. Six years ago, on December 3, 2014, Hayabus2 was launched with a mission to get the space rock back to Earth. After a brief visit back to Earth on December 3, 2015, the spacecraft arrived at Ryugu on June 28, 2018, after spending three-and-a-half years getting into position by orbiting the Sun.

Capsule With Asteroid Sample Finally Lands On Earth After 6 Years And Millions Of Mileshaya2e_jaxa/Twitter
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The team tested the area by sending a lander down onto the surface, before making a further two trips to collect the material, which would then be sent back to Earth.

On its return, the capsule containing the sample was detached from Hayabusa2 at around 130,000 miles from Earth.

Scientists are now getting the capsule to an Australian Department of Defence facility for immediate inspection.

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Science, Asteroid, Now, Space

Credits

NPR
  1. NPR

    Japanese Capsule Containing Bits Of An Asteroid Returns To Earth