That Japanese space agency This week congratulates the arrival of an asteroid sample to Earth, collected by the spacecraft Hayabusa-2 during an unprecedented mission.
A capsule containing a valuable sample, taken from a distant asteroid, reached Earth after being thrown by the probe.
Scientists hope that the sample, up to 0.1 gram of material, can help explain the origin of life and the formation of the universe.
“After six years of space travel, the treasure box could land in Woomera, Australia, this morning”Yuichi Tsuda, project manager for Databus-2, told a press conference.
The capsule carrying the sample entered the atmosphere just before 2:30 am Japan time (2:30 pm on a Saturday in Chile).
Upon entering, it creates a fireball, similar to a shooting star, on its way to the landing site in Australia.
Hours later, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that a sample had been found, with the help of the flare emitted by the capsule when it fell to Earth after separating from Hayabusa-2 on Saturday.
The probe, the size of a refrigerator, is about 220,000 kilometers away.
“The capsule landed perfectly and the plane is moving towards another mission,” said Tsuda.
The capsules, which were found in the desert of South Australia, will now be in the hands of scientists who will carry out preliminary analyzes, including verification of possible gas emissions.
Then it will be sent to Japan.
Megan Clark, head of the Australian Space Agency, welcomed the “extraordinary achievement”.
“2020 has been a difficult year around the world,” but Hayabusa-2 helped “renew our belief in the world, and our trust and appreciation” for the outer universe science, he said.
Samples with organic material?
The sample was collected by Hayabusa-2, launched in 2014, from the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers from Earth.
On this asteroid, the probe collects both surface dust and material from beneath the surface, stirring it up by firing a “hit” at the asteroid.
This material is believed to have not changed since the universe was formed.
Larger celestial bodies such as Earth undergo radical changes that change the composition of the material on the surface and below.
But “when it comes to smaller planets or asteroids, these substances do not melt, and therefore substances from 4.6 billion years ago are still believed to be there,” mission director Hayabusa told reporters. 2, Makoto Yoshikawa, before the capsule arrived.
Scientists are excited to find out whether the sample contains organic material, which could help create life on Earth.
“We still don’t know the origin of life on Earth, and through this Hayabusa-2 mission, if we can study and understand the organic material from Ryugu, it could be the source of life on Earth,” he said. Yoshikawa.
“We have never had materials like this before (…) water and organic matter to be investigated, so this is a very valuable opportunity,” said Motoo Ito, principal investigator at the Japan Science and Technology Agency. Marine-Terrestrial.
Half of the Hayabusa-2 samples will be shared between JAXA, the US space agency NASA, and other international organizations.
The remainder will be saved for future studies as analytical technology advances.
More jobs for Hayabusa-2
Hayabusa-2 will now embark on a mission to two new asteroids.
It will complete a series of orbits around the sun in about six years, before approaching the first asteroid, named 2001 CC21, in July 2026.
The probe won’t be as close as Ryugu, but scientists hope that photographing CC21 and the flyby will help develop knowledge of how to protect Earth from asteroid impacts.
Next, Hayabusa-2 will hit its main target, 1998 KY26, a spherical asteroid with a diameter of only 30 meters.