Space sample arrives on Earth

dark night sky lit up by a falling star

It shocked, wowed, and in a moment, vanished. 

The sample box of the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 sunk in the early hours of Sunday morning in the atmosphere, burning a fleeting fire trail across the skies over the mining town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. 

People saw it over the Lookout Cave Hotel in the town center, at around 4 a.m. About a dozen people assembled. Tripods were installed, and the machinery for the cameras was turned to face the horizon. 

Then a shimmering point of light emerged from the shadows without warning. It was going soon. The audience burst out with ‘oohs,’ while others were pointing up.

The first sub-surface sample of an extraterrestrial substance was locked inside the capsule. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reported that the 16-inch container was more than 200 miles southeast of Coober Pedy, in the flat and ocker plains of the Woomera Region. 

The mission was the culmination of JAXA astronomers’ years of dedication, and it came several years after Hayabusa2 went into space. It was around the size of two dishwashers placed together. The starship traveled billions of miles on its way to the asteroid Ryugu, dedicating the rest of the year surveying the spinning top-shaped rock using special sensors and radars.

 In 2019, with quick catch motions, it collected samples from the surface on two occasions.

 When it came to an end, the incredible finale was evident. But the mission has not yet been accomplished. The retrieval of the capsule happened in the darkness from the pre-dawn outback, and early December 6 verified that the capsule had been collected. 

Original research took place in Woomera. The team then sent the capsule in a chartered flight from Australia to Japan to be transferred to JAXA for further study.

In the secure return of the capsule, the Australian Space Agency and the National Defense Department played an essential function. The Department of Defense is in charge of the Woomera Ban Field, a large area of land about half the size of the UK, where on Saturday the capsule was lead from the Hayabusa2 release.

As a precautionary measure, roadblocks stopped people from entering the area for almost 12 hours. JAXA engineers narrowed to an area of about one-tenth the scale of the final landing zone, with some sharp maneuvering as the shuttle returned to Earth. 

The box came into the Earth’s atmosphere and traveled 7.5 miles per second, but slowed down to 110 meters per second, threw its heat shield, and use its parachute before it reached the thick atmosphere. 

It arrived on the red, Mars-like plains of the WPA after around twenty minutes of gliding.

To better find the capsule, representatives of the Security Force locked it while it first started burning through the atmosphere and tracked it with land and radar cameras. This allowed the JAXA team to locate and send its helicopter crew at approximately 4:47 a.m. to travel and collect. 

Satoru Nakazawa, who headed the reconstruction project, was the first person to have had the privilege of touching the capsule. The recovery team shortly took it to a popup laboratory.

What is in the capsule?

The capsule contains about a gram of foreign material. It will not be opened until it arrives at its final destination. Only a small amount was retrieved for laboratory analysis.

woman scientist analyzing space material

The laboratory requires a sterile room, and workers must dress head-to-toe in protective suits to shield the capsule from possible infections and diseases. Before its departure, Yano and his squad sliced the capsule bottom to detect if it had remaining gas. The team found gas in the sample but could not confirm whether it was from Ryugu or if Earth polluted it after landing. The box was transported by plane.

The research will improve our knowledge of the Solar system and our planet. Scientists plan to send another mission shuttle in the years to come.

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