Capsule With Asteroid Sample Finally Lands On Earth After Six Years And Millions Of Miles
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.
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.
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!’
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!
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.
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.
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.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Most Read StoriesMost Read