It seems that the asteroid material which was collected by the Japanese spacecraft just last year will come back to Earth in about five months from now, lest all should go alright.
We’ve got samples of the 3,000-foot-wide (that’s 900 meters) near-Earth asteroid Ryugu, collected by Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe. They are scheduled to land on Earth, in the South Australian Outback on the 6th of December local time.
According to JAXA – The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency – they “have applied for the Authorization of Return of Overseas Launched Space Object (AROLSO), and both agencies are currently in the process of confirming this. The application will be approved under the Australian Space Activities Act, which came into force in 1998.”
Hayabusa2 was launched back in December 2014, and it arrived at Ryugu back in June 2018. The spacecraft has released many miniprobes onto the surface of the asteroid, and they have taken a lot of measurements. The ship went to the surface of the asteroid twice back in 2019. It also managed to grab some material in February last year. In July, the probe started to dig the subsurface, which was exposed by a copper “bullet” that Hayabusa2 had smashed into the asteroid back in April.
The spacecraft left Ryugu back in November 2019, and it started its journey towards Earth. The mission had its goal to bring a small capsule with samples until December 2020. And it seems that it all working according to the plan.
Astronomers are looking forward to getting the material into their labs on Earth, where they can study them and find out more about the asteroid. These samples could actually help us in better understanding the formation and evolution of the asteroid, and what its role is in the universe.