Capsule with asteroid samples in 'perfect' shape

Capsule with asteroid samples in ‘perfect’ shape

A capsule containing the first significant quantities of rock from an asteroid is in “perfect” shape, according to scientists.

The container with material from a space rock called Ryugu parachuted down near Woomera in South Australia on Saturday evening (GMT).

A recovery team in Australia found the spacecraft lying on the sandy ground, with its parachute draped over a tree.

The samples were originally collected by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa-2.

The spacecraft spent more than a year investigating Ryugu before returning to Earth. As it approached our planet, Hayabusa-2 released the capsule with the samples and fired its engines to push off in another direction.

The capsule, meanwhile, entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

The official Hayabusa-2 Twitter account reported that the capsule and its parachute had been found at 19:47 GMT.

“Hayabusa-2 is home,” Dr Yuichi Tsuda, project manager for the mission, said at a press conference on Sunday morning (GMT) in Sagamihara, Japan.

“We collected the treasure box,” he said, adding: “The capsule collection was perfectly done.” 

He said there was no damage to the container.

Dr Hitoshi Kuninaka, director general of Japan’s Institute for Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), said: “We started development of Hayabusa-2 in 2011. I think the dream has come true.”

Addressing journalists, he acknowledged past missions that had experienced technical problems, but said: “Regarding Hayabusa-2, we did everything according to the schedule – 100%. And we succeeded in sample return as planned. As a result, we can move on to the next stage in space development.”

The next stage includes a mission called MMX, which will aim to bring back samples from Mars’ largest moon Phobos.

Earlier on Saturday, the capsule was picked up by cameras as a dazzling fireball streaking over Australia’s Coober Pedy region.


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