The information: A capsule containing the primary rock samples from the asteroid Ryugu returned to Earth on Sunday, December 6, in “good” situation, in response to researchers.
The samples had been gathered after a six-year mission by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa-2 to and from Ryugu, which is 180 million miles away. Hayabusa-2 flew near Earth and dropped off the capsule, which then streaked by means of the environment at excessive speeds earlier than deploying a parachute. The 16-kilogram capsule, which accommodates round 0.1 grams of rock and dirt, landed safely in Woomera, South Australia, at 4:37 native time and was situated and picked up shortly after by a restoration crew led by Japan’s house company, JAXA.
The importance: It’s solely the second time in historical past that samples from an asteroid have arrived on Earth—the primary was the unique Hayabusa mission, however that managed to deliver again only some micrograms of asteroid mud. The hope is that the samples will assist researchers perceive the formation of the photo voltaic system, together with liveable worlds like Earth.
Asteroids are like time capsules of historic house historical past as a result of their bodily and chemical composition is significantly better preserved than a planet’s, which modifications extra over time. Ryugu also needs to assist us perceive what sorts of parts and compounds might need been delivered to the early Earth by meteorite impacts. After dropping off its valuable cargo, Hayabusa-2 fired its engines once more and is now touring to asteroid 2001 CC21 for a fly-by in July 2026, after which a rendezvous with asteroid 1998 KY26 in July 2031.
What’s subsequent: The capsule is about to be transported to Japan, the place we’ll discover out precisely how a lot asteroid materials was gathered, and researchers can begin to analyze it to see what clues it holds.