A small probe containing a sample from a distant asteroid touched down at the Woomera Test Range in Australia on December 5. The sample is from a primitive celestial body and may hold the key to the origins of life on Earth.
Japan’s space agency JAXA confirmed on December 6 that it had successfully recovered the re-entry capsule of its Hayabusa2 asteroid return mission. The small re-entry capsule contains 100 milligrams of soil and stones from Asteroid 162173 Ryugu, which is located roughly 300 million kilometers from Earth.
As the Hayabusa2 spacecraft flew by Earth on December 5 at 05:30 UTC, it released the re-entry capsule. The capsule re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and at an altitude of approximately 10 kilometers, it autonomously deployed its radar-reflective parachute, ejected its heat shield, and transmitted its position to search crews.
The re-entry capsule was successfully recovered by search teams at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia at 19:47 UTC on December 5. With its successful recovery, the Hayabusa2 mission’s primary objective had been completed following six years and more than 5 billion kilometers.
After a successful recovery, search crews transported the re-entry capsule to operation headquarters in Australia for processing.
Following the separation of its re-entry capsule, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft continued on resuming its mission to explore distant celestial bodies. Over the next decade, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will explore two additional asteroids. It will fly by asteroid 2001 CC21 in 2026 and 1998 KY26 in July 2031.