Dec 5, 2020 - Science

Japan space capsule carrying asteroid samples lands in Australia

JAXA's Hayabusa-2 probe's sample drop to earth after landing on and gathering material from an asteroid some 300 million kilometres from Earth is seen from Coober Pedy in South Australia on
JAXA's Hayabusa-2 probe's sample drop is seen from Coober Pedy in South Australia. Photo: Morgan Sette/Getty Images

A Japanese space capsule carrying asteroid samples landed in a remote area of Australia as planned Saturday, Japan's space agency, JAXA, said.

Why it matters via Axios' Miriam Kramer: It's only the second time pristine asteroid material has been brought back to Earth. Sample return missions like this one are incredibly valuable to scientists.

  • While the instruments onboard the spacecraft have gotten more advanced in recent years, they still pale in comparison to the tools available to researchers in labs on Earth.

Details: Hayabusa2, a robotic space probe, was launched by Japan’s space agency in 2014 to explore the Ryugu asteroid, about 180 million miles away.

  • After releasing the sample capsule, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft moved away from Earth to capture images of the capsule as it set off on a new mission to another distant asteroid, AP reported.
  • JAXA said it found the capsule via a helicopter search in the planned area in southern Australia later on Saturday.

What they're saying: “It was great ... It was a beautiful fireball, and I was so impressed,” said JAXA’s Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda, per AP.

  • “I’ve waited for this day for six years.”

What's next: China has a mission that is planning to return samples from the Moon later this month.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misspelled "asteroid" in the headline and first paragraph.

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