It is always nice to get a bit of good news in what has been a pretty rubbish year. Well, totally rubbish to be precise. So, on Saturday it was a real treat to watch the live feed from JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency, as the sample return capsule from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft blazed a trail in the skies above Australia. It landed safely in the Woomera Test Range and was located within a few hours by the recovery team.
The sample capsule was taken to a “quick-look facility” close by and was then transported to the JAXA campus in Sagamihara, Japan. Once properly opened, a very intensive phase of sample characterisation studies will begin.
Inside the capsule should be at least 100 milligrams of material collected from the primitive asteroid Ryugu. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at the asteroid in June 2018 and left in November 2019. It is likely that the material collected will be similar to some carbonaceous chondrite meteorites that arrive on Earth. But then again maybe not! We will have to wait and see.
IMAGE CREDIT: JAXA