Published: Wed, November 13, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

JAXA's Hayabusa2 Starts Its Long Journey Home, Returning with Asteroid Samples

JAXA's Hayabusa2 Starts Its Long Journey Home, Returning with Asteroid Samples

Asteroid Ryugu captured with the Optical Navigation Camera - Telescopic (ONC-T) immediately after departure.

It will release a capsule containing the samples which is predicted to land in the desert of South Australia, JAXA said.

It departed from the Ryugu asteroid at 10:05 a.m. Japan time on Wednesday morning, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said. It succeeded in an unprecedented mission of touching down twice and collecting rock samples from beneath the surface.

The mission took the fridge-sized probe some 300 million kilometres (186 million miles) from Earth, where it explored the asteroid Ryugu, whose name means "Dragon Palace" in Japanese - a reference to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient fable.

After one and a half years of exploration work around the asteroid Ryugu, the time has finally come for JAXAs Hayabusa 2 spacecraft to return home. Later, the spacecraft will hearth its primary thrusters and can begin its journey in the direction of earth. In addition, Hayabusa 2 took many photos of asteroids and deployed several robotic probes to the surface, among other tasks, Looking back, the mission has been nothing short of spectacular successthough final sigh of relief will come when scientists opened the cargo container and confirm that they really contain samples of asteroid they are created to collect.

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"All of us are satisfied and have no complaints with what we accomplished", the probe project manager Yuichi Tsuda said in a briefing on Tuesday.

In April, Hayabusa-2 fired an "impactor" into the asteroid to stir up materials that had not previously been exposed to the atmosphere.

"Ryugu has been at the heart of our everyday life for the past year and a half", he added. Hayabusa2's venture, which began in 2014, is the world's first sample return mission to a C-type asteroid.

Ryugu is a carbonaceous near-Earth asteroid, and scientists are hoping that the samples it provided can give them more information on the origin and evolution of the inner planets. Hayabusa2 will continue its "farewell filming" of the asteroid for a few more days.

Scientists said that there were traces of carbon and organic matter in the asteroid soil samples. Details are still being negotiated with the Australian government, Tsuda said.

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