Japan’s ‘Hayabusa2’ carrying asteroid rocks lands in Australian desert

Scientists hope to learn a lot about the early solar system

Japan space agency officials on Sunday hailed the arrival of rare asteroid samples on Earth after they were collected by space probe Hayabusa2 during an unprecedented mission. The spacecraft spent more than a year investigating Ryugu, a space rock, before returning to Earth.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft launched in 2014 and took four years to reach its destination. Hayabusa2 will be the second asteroid sample mission to return to Woomera, a 122,000-square kilometre defence area that encompasses the traditional lands of six Aboriginal groups. Hayabusa2 is an asteroid sample-return mission operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA. It is a successor to the Hayabusa mission which returned asteroid samples for the first time in June 2010. Hayabusa2 was launched on 3 December 2014 and rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu on 27 June 2018. It surveyed the asteroid for a year and a half and took samples. It left the asteroid in November 2019 and returned the samples to Earth on 5 December 2020.

Scientists hope the samples, which are expected to amount to no more than 0.1 grams of material, could help shed light on the origin of life and the formation of the universe and hope to learn a lot about the early solar system.