The Japanese space agency JAXA reports that a capsule containing grit of an asteroid has landed in a remote spot in southern Australia, as was planned.
After a helicopter search, the capsule with parachute was found, JAXA tells us via Twitter.
It‘s a capsule shot to Earth by the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft.
The probe picked up the piece of asteroid Ryugu in February 2019, after it fired a small 5-gram ball onto the surface. More than half a year earlier, the space probe had arrived at the asteroid some 300 million kilometers from the Earth, after a journey of almost four years.
When the capsule today moved through the atmosphere, a fireball was seen from the ISS space station, the Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi tweeted.
“ It was a beautiful fireball,” said Yuichi Tsuda, who leads the Hayabusa-2 mission, against Reuters news agency. “I’ve waited six years for this day.”
Joy at Jaxa headquarters about the successful return of the capsule:
The space grit should, among other things, provide insight into the origin of the solar system. JAXA hopes to salvage the capsule tomorrow. Teams from the space organization had been in the Australian region of Woomera for days to prepare for it.
The Hayabusa-2 probe will most likely continue flying for another mission.
Similar NASA mission
The American space organization NASA is on a similar mission. In October, spacecraft Osiris-rex picked up more than 900 grams of grit from asteroid Bennu.
A few days after landing, it turned out that he lost part of the cargo. Meanwhile, the rest of the cargo is secured in a capsule.
Exactly how much grit the spacecraft is carrying is not yet known. That will only become clear when the capsule with the material lands in the Utah desert in 2023.
NASA will also get some of the grit from the Japanese probe for research. In return, the Americans give Bennu samples to Japanese scientists in 2023.