JAXA’s Ryugu Sample Collection Mission — Now Four and A Half Years Later — Has “Stuck Its Landing”, Via Parachutes, Into The Australian Outback…
December 5, 2020

We’ve mentioned it once or twice since September 2018, but back then, we covered the Japanese space science team’s precision — in bouncing regularly, and in controlled fashion, on the surface of an asteriod — to collect a pair of samples, and return them home to Earth.

That has now happened, right on schedule — into the vast outback of Australia, this evening local time. Here’s some of it — but do go read it all — as it is now being shipped home to Sagamihara, Japan — via a tightly-sealed jet container:

. . .Screaming towards Earth at 11km/s, it deployed parachutes to slow its descent. The capsule then began transmitting a beacon with information about its position.

The spacecraft touched down on the vast Woomera range, operated by the Royal Australian Air Force. . . .

Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons, from Queen’s University Belfast, said the sample would “reveal a huge amount, not only about the history of the Solar System, but about these particular objects as well”.

Asteroids are essentially leftover building materials from the formation of the Solar System. They’re made of the same stuff that went into building worlds like Earth, but they avoided being incorporated into planets.

“Having samples from an asteroid like Ryugu will be really exciting for our field. We think Ryugu is made up of super-ancient rocks that will tell us how the Solar System formed,” Prof Sara Russell, leader of the planetary materials group at London’s Natural History Museum, told BBC News.

Studying the samples grabbed from Ryugu could tell us how water and the ingredients for life were delivered to the early Earth.

It had long been thought that comets delivered much of the Earth’s water in the early days of the Solar System. Prof. Fitzsimmons said the chemical profile of water in comets was sometimes different from the profile of water in our planet’s oceans. . . .

We are. . . brimming now, with good cheer — for a whole host of unrelated, and partially related reasons. Proud of my people, across the pond. . . smile. Onward.