Hayabusa2 Project Chief Happy with Capsule's Return from Asteroid

Science Society Technology

Sagamihara/Tokyo, Dec. 6 (Jiji Press)--Yuichi Tsuda, chief of the Hayabusa2 project, expressed his pleasure on Sunday after a capsule believed to contain sand samples from asteroid Ryugu successfully returned to Earth on the day after it was separated from the unmanned probe on Saturday.

"I look forward to opening the capsule," Tsuda, an official of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said at a news conference at the government-affiliated agency's campus in the city of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, eastern Japan. The capsule landed on a desert in Australia early Sunday and was retrieved by a JAXA team later in the day.

While the first Hayabusa probe, the predecessor of Hayabusa2, faced an array of challenges during its mission to bring back to Earth samples of sand from its target asteroid, Itokawa, the mission of Hayabusa2 was relatively smooth. Still, Tsuda said, "The members of the Hayabusa2 project team worked hard and did a really good job." Hayabusa2 spent about six years traveling a total of some 5.2 billion kilometers between Earth and Ryugu.

"We worked (on the Hayabusa2 project) step by step while making careful judgments" based on the lessons from the Hayabusa project, Tsuda said. "I had dreamed (of seeing the capsule come back to Earth), but I had never imagined I would be so happy," he said.

"It was a perfectly controlled mission," Hitoshi Kuninaka, director-general of JAXA's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, said of the Hayabusa2 project. "As chief of the institute, I strictly instructed the project members, but they did it so beautifully," he said.

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