Japan's Hayabusa2 capsule that contains pristine asteroid fragments was recovered in the South Australian outback after it landed safely back to Earth on December 5. The asteroid fragments may unlock the secrets about the universe.
Six years ago, Hayabusa2 spacecraft conducted a 5.2bn km mission to get the first-ever sub-surface samples from the asteroid Ryugu, and scientists are hoping that the asteroid fragments will shed a new light about the origins of life.
Hayabusa2 returned past Earth's atmosphere and dropped a capsule that has the sample. It weighed less than 0.1 grams and it was discovered in the South Australian outback, according to CNN.
The capsule also shortly turned into a fireball and it streaked across the sky as it returned to Earth, before it eventually landed in the Woomera, which is a prohibited area.
The capsule, which is about 40cm in diameter, was found by search teams and the collection work immediately started, according to BBC.
The staff in Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency located at Sagamihara, Tokyo, celebrated the safe return of the capsule. Yuichi Tsuda from the command center said that they were so impressed by the landing of the capsule and that they've waited six years for this day.
Hayabusa2 moved away from Earth after it released the capsule to capture images of it descending toward the planet as it set off on a new mission to another asteroid, but it will take a decade to complete.
This is the second time that an asteroid sample has been brought back safely to Earth, but this is the first time that an underground sample has been retrieved.
Secret of life
Dr. Eleanor Sansom, a planetary scientist and project manager of the Desert Fireball Network at Curtin University said that the asteroid Ryugu is special as it is the type of asteroid that carbonaceous meteorites come from. She added that if Hayabusa2 samples match the carbonaceous meteorites, they could have amino acids which are the building blocks of life.
Ed Kruzins, the director of the Deep Space Communication Network in Canberra, has been helping track the vehicle since it was launched back in 2014. He said that the vehicle runs in solar-electric ion thrusters, which means 66 kilograms of fuel can take billions of kilometers, an efficient way of maneuvering.
Professor Masaki Fujimoto from Jaxa stated that the asteroid samples may help answer the question about how water and life begin on Earth, according to MSN.
Professor Fujimoto said that Earth was formed close to the sun so it was formed dry, the original formation of Earth did not have water at all so something had evolved to bring water to the planet and make it habitable.
The public also cheered for the success of the capsule, and Karen Andrews, the science and technology minister in Australia said that the successful landing was an accomplishment for Australia, which played a supporting role.
David Littleproud, the agriculture minister, said that the asteroid sample would give evidence of any risks from space. He said that JAXA will return the asteroid sample to Japan and that is when scientists will analyze whether there are any space invaders on asteroids.
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Written by Sieeka Khan