In the Australian desert, a capsule containing rock samples from the asteroid Ryuku, transported from a long spaceflight with a Japanese probe “Hayabusa2”, has successfully reached Earth, according to the Japan Space Research Agency (JAXA).
The content continues after the ad
The small capsule, which is only 40 centimeters in diameter, detached from the probe at an altitude of 220,000 kilometers, entered the Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of 120 kilometers and opened a parachute at a height of ten kilometers, while the probe itself, called “Falcon” in Japanese, it was redirected on a new mission to another distant asteroid that it could reach in ten years.
A team of Japanese researchers has announced that the capsule has already been found by flying over the area by helicopter.
“We found the capsule! With the whole parachute!” tweeted by JAXA.
The landing operation required extreme precision. In the intended area for the capsule landing, the Agency used a number of satellite dishes to receive the transmitted signals, with radar, drones and helicopters to be searched.
It is not planned to open the capsule in Australia, but to deliver it to Japan and start analyzing its contents in June next year.
The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014; 6 billion year old stone samples.
Scientists hope that these samples, taken below the surface of the asteroid, will provide insight into the evolution of the solar system. Studies so far suggest that these stones may contain water and possibly organic matter, such as amino acids, which may have been “the source of life on earth”, the researchers said.
The name of the asteroid in Ryugu means “Dragon’s Castle” and in Japanese mythology it means a dragon’s castle at the bottom of the sea.