Hayabusa2 Capsule Returns to Earth, Retrieved by JAXA

Science Society Technology

Tokyo, Dec. 6 (Jiji Press)--A capsule believed to contain sand samples from asteroid Ryugu arrived back on Earth on Sunday morning after being separated from Japan's Hayabusa2 unmanned probe the previous day.

The capsule, about 40 centimeters in diameter, entered Earth's atmosphere above Australia around 2:30 a.m. Japan time (5:30 p.m. Saturday GMT). The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, found the capsule in a desert near Woomera in southern Australia around 4:45 a.m. and retrieved it about three hours later.

If sand is collected from the capsule successfully, it would be the first such feat since the first Hayabusa spacecraft brought samples from the Itokawa asteroid to Earth in 2010. It would be the first time in the world for samples from a carbonaceous, or C-type, asteroid, which is believed to contain organic and hydrated minerals, being brought to Earth, possibly giving clues to unraveling the mystery of how the solar system was created and the origin of life.

JAXA staff members in the government-affiliated space agency's control room in the city of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, eastern Japan, expressed joy when the capsule entered Earth's atmosphere, with everybody shouting "yes!"

"It was a beautiful entry into the atmosphere, and it was moving," Yuichi Tsuda, the Hayabusa2 project manager, said. "It was really nice."

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press