The Japan Space Agency congratulated on Sunday on the arrival of samples of an asteroid to Earth, collected by the space probe Hayabusa-2 during an unprecedented mission.
A capsule containing the valuable samples, taken from a distant asteroid, reached Earth after being thrown by the probe.
Scientists hope that the samples, no more than 0.1 grams of material, can help to elucidate the origin of life and the formation of the universe.
“After six years of space travel, the Treasury could land in Woomera, Australia, this morning”Yuichi Tsuda, project manager for Databus-2, said at a press conference.
Capsule-bearing samples entered the atmosphere just before 02:30 Japanese time (14:30 on Saturday in Chile).
When he entered, it created a fireball, resembling a star, on its way to the landing site in Australia.
A few hours later, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that the samples had been recovered, using beacons released from the canister when it fell to the ground after separating from Hayabusa-2 on Saturday.
The probe with a refrigerator size was approximately 220,000 kilometers away.
“The capsule landed perfectly and the probe is moving towards another mission,” said Tsuda.
The capsule, which has been recovered in the desert of southern Australia, will now be in the hands of scientists who will carry out an initial analysis, including verification of possible gas emissions.
Then it will be sent to Japan.
Megan Clark, head of the Australian Space Agency, welcomed the “wonderful achievement”.
“2020 has been a difficult year around the world,” but Hayabusa-2 helped “renew our faith in the world and our trust and appreciation” for science in the outer universe, he said.
Samples with organic material?
The samples were collected by Hayabusa-2, launched in 2014, from the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers from Earth.
On this asteroid, the probe collected both surface dust and material below the surface and was stirred up by firing a “impact body” at the asteroid.
It is believed that matter has not changed since the universe was formed.
Larger celestial bodies, such as the earth, underwent radical changes that changed the composition of the material on its surface and below it.
But “in the case of smaller planets or asteroids, these substances did not melt and therefore substances from 4.6 billion years ago are believed to still be there,” Head of Mission Hayabusa told reporters. 2, Makoto Yoshikawa, before the capsule arrived.
Researchers are particularly interested in finding out if the samples contain organic material, which could have helped create life on Earth.
“We still do not know the origin of life on earth, and through this Hayabusa-2 mission, if we can study and understand these organic materials from Ryugu, it may be that they were the source of life on earth,” he said. Yoshikawa.
“We have never had materials like these before (…) water and organic material will be investigated, so this is a very valuable opportunity,” said Motoo Ito, chief investigator at Japan’s Science and Technology Bureau. Marine-Terrestrial.
Half of the Hayabusa-2 samples will be shared between JAXA, the US space agency NASA and other international organizations.
The rest will be saved for future studies as progress is made in analytical technology.
More work for Hayabusa-2
Hayabusa-2 is now embarking on a mission for two new asteroids.
It will complete a series of orbits around the sun for about six years before approaching the first of the asteroids, named 2001 CC21, in July 2026.
The probe will not come as close as Ryugu, but researchers hope that it will be able to photograph CC21 and that flyby will help develop knowledge about how to protect the earth from an asteroid impact.
After that, Hayabusa-2 will move towards its main target, 1998 KY26, a spherical asteroid with a diameter of only 30 meters.