Hayabusa2 Sample Container Returns To Earth In Near Perfect Condition

We mentioned yesterday the Japanese Hayabusa2 probe was set to return its samples to Earth. That sample return happened near Woomera in Australia and went perfectly. JAXA has announced the capsule containing the first significant quantity of samples from on and under the surface of an asteroid had returned to Earth in near perfect condition.

After its fiery trip through the atmosphere, the recovery team in Australia found the sample container lying on sandy ground with its parachute draped over a tree. Hayabusa2 spent more than a year investigating asteroid Ryugu before gathering samples and beginning its return home.

Hayabusa2 released the capsule with the samples into Earth's atmosphere and then fired its engines to head in another direction. The capsule and its parachute were officially found at 19:47 GMT in Australia. The capsule landed on a vast range operated by the Royal Australian Air Force.

Dr. Hitoshi Kuninaka, director general of the Japan Institute for Space and Astronomical Science, said they began to develop the Hayabusa2 spacecraft in 2011, noting that the recovery of the sample capsule showed that the "dream has come true." He also noted that with regards to Hayabusa2, everything had been done according to the schedule 100 percent. He says the team can move on to the next stage in space development.

The next missions in the planning stage include one known as MMX, aiming to bring back samples from Phobos, the largest moon orbiting Mars. The recovery team was able to find the sample container easily thanks to an onboard sensor broadcasting its location. However, the search first began under darkness, and the team was unable to find the probe until the sun came up. The sample container has not been opened. It will be opened in a laboratory setting where scientists plan to collect the gases from inside the container for analysis.