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Japan space The agency said the signals showed that a capsule launched by the country’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft landed in a remote area of ​​the Australian outback as planned.
Hayabusa2 had successfully launched the small capsule on Saturday and sent it towards Earth to deliver samples from a distant asteroid that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on our planet, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.
A computer graphics image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Hayabusa2 spacecraft hovering over the asteroid Ryugu. (AP)

Early Sunday morning, the capsule briefly turned into a fireball as it reentered the atmosphere 75 miles above Earth.

Approximately 10 kilometers above the ground, a parachute had to be opened to slow its fall and beacon signals had to be transmitted to indicate its location.

“It was great … It was a beautiful ball of fire, and I was very impressed,” said JAXA Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda as he celebrated the capsule’s successful return and safe landing from a command center in Sagamihara. , near Tokyo.

“I have waited for this day for six years.”

Project members celebrate as the success of a trajectory control maneuver to withdraw from Earth’s sphere is confirmed, in a control room at JAXA’s Sagamihara Campus in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, yesterday. (AP)

Beacon signals have been detected, suggesting that a parachute was also successfully opened and that the capsule landed safely in a remote and sparsely populated area of ​​Woomera in the far north of South Australia, the JAXA official said, Akitaka Kishi.

He said JAXA staff would conduct an aerial search of his location using a helicopter.

The fireball could be seen even from the International Space Station.

A Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, who is now on a six-month mission there, tweeted: “I just saw # hayabusa2 from #ISS! It’s not bright enough for a handheld camera unfortunately, but I enjoyed looking at the capsule! “

This morning begins the recovery of the dish-shaped capsule, about 40 centimeters (15 inches) in diameter.

Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu, some 300 million kilometers away, a year ago.

After he released the capsule, he drifted away from Earth to capture images of the capsule descending toward the planet as it set off on a new expedition to another distant asteroid.

The capsule descended from 220,000 kilometers away into space after it separated from Hayabusa2 in a challenging operation that required precision control.

JAXA staff were waiting and now they are springing into action to locate the capsule, which some people call “a treasure box.”

JAXA officials said they expected to retrieve the capsule on Sunday night before a preliminary safety inspection at an Australian laboratory and bring it home early next week.

Dozens of JAXA employees have been working on Woomera to prepare for the sample return.

They have installed satellite dishes at various locations in the target area within the Australian Air Force proving ground to receive the signals.

They will also use marine radar, drones and helicopters to aid in the search and recovery of the tray-shaped capsule.

An image of the asteroid Ryugu captured by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (AP)

Trevor Ireland, a space rock expert at the Australian National University, who is in Woomera for the capsule’s arrival, said he expected the Ryugu samples to be similar to the meteorite that fell in Australia near Murchison in the state of Victoria. more than 50 years ago.

“The Murchison meteorite opened a window in the origin of organics on Earth because these rocks were found to contain simple amino acids and plenty of water, ”Ireland said.

“We will examine whether Ryugu is a potential source of organic matter and water on Earth when the solar system was forming, and whether they still remain intact on the asteroid.”

Scientists say they believe the samples, especially those taken below the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data that is unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.

They are particularly interested in analyzing organic materials in samples.

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

Yoshikawa, the mission director, said 0.1 grams of powder would be enough to carry out all planned investigations.

For Hayabusa2, it is not the end of the mission that began in 2014.

It is now heading to a small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a 10-year one-way trip, for possible research, including finding ways to prevent meteorites from hitting Earth.

In this July 2019 image taken by JAXA, the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft lands on the asteroid Ryugu to collect samples. (AP)

So far, your mission has been totally successful.

It landed twice on Ryugu despite the asteroid’s extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during the year and a half it passed near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.

On its first landing in February 2019, it collected dust samples from the surface.

On a more challenging mission in July of that year, it collected underground samples of the asteroid for the first time in space history after landing in a crater it previously created by blowing up 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 can therefore help explain how Earth evolved.

Ryugu in Japanese means “Dragon Palace”, the name of a castle at the bottom of the sea in a Japanese folk tale.

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