World News – AU – Japan awaits the return of the spacecraft carrying asteroid soil samples

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TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s space agency said the Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully detached a capsule and sent it to Earth to provide samples from a remote asteroid that provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on our asteroid Planets could exist.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the capsule successfully emerged on Saturday afternoon. 000 kilometers away in a challenging process that required precise control. The capsule will now land in a remote, sparsely populated area of ​​Woomera, Australia on Sunday.

Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers away, a year ago. Now that the capsule is released, it moves away from Earth to capture images of the capsule as it descends onto the planet.

Yuichi Tsuda, project manager at the JAXA space agency, stood up and raised his fists as everyone applauded as soon as the command center officials confirmed the successful separation of the capsule.

Hayabusa2’s return with the world’s first underground asteroid samples comes weeks after the NASA spacecraft OSIRIS-REx successfully acquired surface samples of asteroid Bennu via touch-and-go. China, meanwhile, announced this week that its lunar lander was collecting underground samples and sealing them inside the spacecraft to return to Earth while space developing countries participate in their missions.

Many Hayabusa2 fans gathered to watch the capsule separation moment at public events across the country, including one at Tokyo Dome Stadium.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, the capsule, protected by a heat shield, briefly transforms into a ball of fire when it returns to the atmosphere 120 kilometers above the earth. About 10 kilometers above the ground, a parachute will open to slow its fall and beacon signals will be sent to indicate its location.

JAXA employees have set up satellite dishes in several locations in the target area to receive the signals, while also preparing marine radar, drones and helicopters to make it easier to find and retrieve the 40-centimeter pan-shaped capsule in inch ) In diameter.

Scientists believe the samples, especially those taken from beneath the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data that is unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors. You are particularly interested in the analysis of organic materials in the samples.

JAXA hopes to find clues as to how materials are distributed in the solar system and how they relate to life on earth.

For Hayabusa2, this is not the end of the mission that began in 2014. After the capsule is dropped, it returns to space and flies to another distant tiny asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey that is said to be 10 years in one direction to conduct possible research and find ways to prevent it from happening Meteorites hit the earth.

So far, his mission has been completely successful. It landed on Ryugu twice despite its extremely rocky surface and successfully collected data and samples during the 1½ years it spent near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.

Surface dust samples were collected on its first landing in February 2019. In a more challenging mission this July, it collected underground samples from the asteroid for the first time in space history after landing in a crater it had previously created by blasting the asteroid’s surface.

Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and therefore can help explain the evolution of the earth.

Ryugu means « Dragon Palace » in Japanese, the name of a castle on the sea floor in a Japanese folk tale.

Hayabusa2, asteroid, JAXA, Earth, 162173 Ryugu, Hayabusa, Japan

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Ref: https://www.sfchronicle.com

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