After traveling through space for six years to investigate the origins of the Solar System, the Japanese probe Hayabusa2 dropped a capsule containing samples to Earth.
| 12/04/2020 | ionicons-v5-c23: 00 | – . |
After traveling through space for six years to investigate the origins of the Solar system, the japanese probe Hayabusa2 drops a capsule with samples of a remote asteroid it took last year to Earth this Sunday.
The samples were taken at the remote asteroid ryugu, located 340 million kilometers from Earth, in a project undertaken by the Aerospace Exploration Agency of Japan (JAXA).
The probe, with a weight of about 600 kilograms and a size that reaches 1.6 meters on its largest side (without the solar panels extended), was launched on December 3, 2014, and is the successor to another device that June 2010 brought samples of the asteroid Itokawa to Earth.
On the eve of releasing that capsule, Hayabusa2 is traveling at a speed of 33 kilometers per second and has already traveled some 5.273 million kilometers on its way.
Hayabusa2 was in the vicinity of Ryugu for a year and a half and landed on its surface on February 22, 2019, for the first time, and did so again on July 11, 2019.
The samples it took there come inside a capsule that Hayabusa2 will drop from outside the atmosphere into a desert area in South Australia to complete the key stage of its mission, before continuing to explore space.
The package is not very large, since the samples only weigh a total of one gram, but include debris from the surface recovered in their first landing and other underground in the second after a projectile launched by Hayabusa2 opened a crater.
JAXA scientists hope these samples will reveal details about the origin of the Solar system and, beyond, on the origin of life.
« We have sealed the capsule very well, but even so, some gas samples may be lost, » said Masaki Fujimoto, deputy director general of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences at JAXA on Friday.
« We don’t want to lose anything, » he insisted.
The idea is that the capsule with the samples, once recovered, is transported to the military facilities of Australian locality Woomera, but it will be a temporary stay because, still closed, it will be forwarded to Japan
JAXA chose this asteroid, type C, because it has characteristics that allow it to be believed that it has more organic or hydrated minerals than asteroids of the S type, as was Itokawa, destination of the first edition of the Hayabusa probes.
Although Ryugu is estimated to have an existence of 4.6 billion years, it is believed to have had minimal changes since the formation of Solar system, so it can give clues about meteorites that may have hit Earth in times past.
Ryugu -name of an underwater magic palace of Japanese folklore- is about 900 meters in diameter and slightly cubic in shape and, like other minor planets, is considered among the oldest bodies in the world. Solar system.
According to scientists, in the formation of the Earth the planet was too close to the Sun for the water to condense, but once it cooled both water and organic materials were brought to the Planet by asteroids like Ryugu.
Once the Ryugu samples are dropped, Hayabusa2 will not finish his mission, because he will continue his special exploration, now heading to another remote asteroid by the name of 1998KY26