The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 took off from earth six years ago. It was headed straight for asteroid Ryugu.
A sample capsule from the spacecraft has made its way back to earth carrying samples from the ancient asteroid, landing in Coober Pedy, South Australia. The landing was made on Sunday morning. It pierced through the atmosphere, leaving a blazing trail in its wake on re-entry.
The Hayabusa2 is a huge mission for the Japanese space agency. It is the first subsurface sample to be retrieved successfully from an asteroid. It carries about one gram of celestial dirt from the ancient asteroid back to earth.
Travel for the Hayabusa2 was over 3.2 billion miles back and forth from earth and asteroid Ryugu. After successfully landing on Ryugu, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft spent about a year studying the surface of the asteroid using its specialized cameras, infrared imager and radar.
JAXA engineers retrieved the sample capsule from the Australian Outback with help from the Australian Space Agency and the Department of Defense. The capsule could be seen making its way down to earth at around 4 am on Sunday, 6 December as people gathered on rooftops in Coober Peddy to witness the site.
About a dozen people crammed into the lookout above Coober Pedy’s Lookout Cave Motel — a few had set up cameras to catch the #Hayabusa2 fireball. When it lit up the sky, everybody “oooh’d”… It blazed a trail and disappeared into the night. Good luck to the recovery team!
— jack ryan 🙏 (@dctrjack) December 5, 2020
Hayabusa2’s team spent over a decade preparing for and working on the mission. The landing of the spacecraft back on earth marked a special milestone in their careers.
According to CNET, Masaki Fujimoto, deputy director of the Institute for Space and Aeronautical Science at JAXA noted that, “This is the last time we will all be together.”