After six years, Japanese scientists retrieved a space probe containing samples from an asteroid as part of the Hayabusa2 mission. The capsule was retrieved from the remote Australian outback on Sunday.
The capsule from the unmanned Hayabusa2 carried the first extensive samples of dust from an asteroid.
After a preliminary inspection, it will be flown to Japan for research. The extremely high precision required to carry out the mission resulted in a long wait for the orbits of the spacecraft and earth to synch. The project’s manager, Yuichi Tsuda of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, called the capsule a “treasure box.”
Yuichi Tsuda told the Japanese media, “This is great. It was a beautiful re-entry. We are all very moved by this.”
Launched on Dec. 3, 2014, the unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down twice on the asteroid Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometres (190 million miles) away from Earth. The asteroid’s extremely rocky surface forced the mission’s team to revise landing plans, but the spacecraft successfully collected data and soil samples during the 1½ years it spent near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.
The capsule’s samples could contain clues to the origin of the solar system, Japan’s space agency has said.