In December of 2020, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, also known as JAXA, acquired an asteroid sample from space and successfully brought it back down to Earth. They initially launched the mission back in 2014, calling it the Hayabusa2 Project, eager to see what they might find.
After years of intense work and research, the sample made its way back to Earth's surface, so scientists could continue their study. "The confirmation of sample is a very important milestone for us and for JAXA," said Yuichi Tsuda, project manager for the JAXA mission.
"The samples containing precious asteroid material will provide scientists with key information about the formation of the Solar System," explained Ed Kruzins, director of Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex for the project. In December, a vibrant fireball soared through the sky and landed in the South Australian desert, showing the capsule's journey back to Earth.
Once it landed, researchers were eager to locate the capsule, hopeful that it would contain the desired material from Ryugu. "Images that Hyabusa2 took during its landing operations made us confident that the spacecraft collected Ryugu samples," Satoru Nakazawa, deputy manager of the mission, shared.
Capsule collection! The helicopter team immediately flew to the location identified by the DFS team. They searched for the fallen capsule by using radio waves and maps. Thank you very much!— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) December 6, 2020
(Collection Team M)#Hayabusa2#はやぶさ２#AsteroidExplorerHayabusa2 #HAYA2Report pic.twitter.com/KSyEbnU3Yd
The capsule was later delivered back to Japan, so the original research team could get their hands on the incredibly desirable asteroid sample. Because of Australia's efficient transport to Japan, "the samples we got from Ryugu are very pure without contamination from the Earth's atmosphere, and we confirmed that there was no leaked," revealed Tsuda.
JAXA still has a lot to do with the sample in the future, but they're pleased with the work that's been done thus far and look forward to discovering even more about the world. And Hyabusa2 will be on its way to many more destinations going forward.