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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.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

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

Go deeper

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Axiom announces the crew for its first private ISS mission

Earth from space. Photo: NASA

An American entrepreneur, Canadian investor and Israeli investor, along with a former NASA astronaut, are set to make up the first fully private mission to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The flight — expected to launch in January 2022 — represents part of NASA's bid to create an economy in low-Earth orbit supported by private companies.

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What to know about the Moon rock in Biden's Oval Office

The Moon rock now in the Oval Office. Photo: NASA

President Joe Biden hasn't revealed much about his space policy priorities yet, but space fans can take heart that space is on his mind, thanks to an Apollo Moon rock that now decorates the Oval Office.

Why it matters: The Moon rock — loaned to the White House by NASA — is on display "in symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach," according to a statement from NASA.

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22 hours ago - Science

Investment in the space industry overcame the pandemic's headwinds in 2020

A SpaceX launch in 2020. Photo: SpaceX

Investment in the space industry continued to grow in the last quarter of 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Space Capital.

Why it matters: The space industry turned out to be far more robust in the face of the pandemic than many experts were initially expecting.

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