World News – AU – Japanese capsule returns to Earth with important asteroid samples

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Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully released a small capsule on Saturday and sent it to Earth to provide samples from a distant asteroid that could provide clues as to the origin of the solar system and life on our planet, the space agency said Country.

The capsule successfully underwent a challenging operation that required precise control from a distance of 220. 000 kilometers (136. 700 miles), according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The capsule, only 40 centimeters in diameter, is now descending and is expected to 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. After releasing the capsule, it moved away from Earth to capture images of the capsule descending on the planet as it embarked on a new expedition to another distant asteroid.

About two hours later, JAXA announced that it had successfully rerouted Hayabusa2 for its new mission when beaming employees at the agency’s command center in Sagamihara near Tokyo exchanged fist and elbow touches.

This Nov. . 13, 2019, file image from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the asteroid Ryugu captured by the Japanese spaceship Hayabusa2. (JAXA via AP, file)

« We have come this far successfully, and when we complete our final mission to retrieve the capsule, it will be perfect, » said Mission Manager Makoto Yoshikawa during a live streaming event from the command center.

People who gathered to watch the capsule split at public events across Japan were delighted with the success. « I am really happy that the capsule was successfully released. My heart was beating fast as I watched, « said Ichiro Ryoko, a 60-year-old computer engineer who was watching in the Tokyo Dome.

Hayabusa2’s return with the world’s first asteroid underground samples comes weeks after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully captured surface samples of asteroid Bennu via touch-and-go. Meanwhile, China announced this week that its lunar lander has collected underground samples and sealed them inside the spacecraft for their return to Earth as space developing countries compete on missions.

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 places in the target area to receive the signals. You’ll also use marine radar, drones, and helicopters to aid in finding and retrieving the pan-shaped capsule.

Australian National University space rock expert Trevor Ireland, who is in Woomera because of the capsule’s arrival, said he expected the Ryugu samples to resemble the meteorite found in Australia more than 50 years ago fell near Murchison, Victoria.

« The Murchison meteorite opened a window to the creation of organics on earth, as it was found that these rocks contain simple amino acids and abundant water, » Ireland said. “We will investigate whether Ryugu was a potential source of organic matter and water on Earth when the solar system was formed, and whether these are still intact on the asteroid. ”

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. Yoshikawa, the mission manager, said 0. 1 gram of dust would be enough to carry out all the planned tests.

In this image from a video by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), its members react on Saturday December at the command center in Sagamihara, west of Tokyo. 5, 2020 after JAXA officials confirmed the successful separation of a capsule from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (JAXA via AP)

For Hayabusa2, this is not the end of the mission that began in 2014. It is now on its way to a small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey that is said to be 10 years in one direction to conduct potential research and find ways to prevent meteorites from hitting Earth.

So far, his mission has been completely successful. Despite the asteroid’s extremely rocky surface, it landed on Ryugu twice 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.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. © 2020 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. Offers are displayed in real time or delayed by at least 15 minutes. Market data from Factset. Supported and implemented by FactSet Digital Solutions. Legal statement. Mutual fund and ETF data provided by Refinitiv Lipper.

Hayabusa2, asteroid, Earth, JAXA, 162173 Ryugu

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