Asteroid space probe to return to Japan

Jun 15, 2010
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency-issued photo shows part of a team of scientists inspecting the capsule carried by the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft after it parachuted back to land in the Woomera military zone in the Australian Outback.

A space capsule that scientists hope is carrying asteroid dust, potentially revealing secrets about the origins of the solar system, will be flown back to Japan this week, officials said Tuesday.

The precious probe, which made a textbook landing in the Australian Outback on Sunday after a seven-year, five-billion-kilometre (three-billion-mile) journey to the ancient Itokawa asteroid, will be carried on a chartered flight.

"The journey starts Thursday," an official from the JAXA told AFP from the South Australian desert landing site at Woomera. "It will reach on the 18th (Friday)."

The capsule was carried by the Hayabusa probe, which returned to Earth late Sunday, blazing across the Outback sky as it burned up on re-entry before an enthralled crowd of scientists from Japan, the United States and Australia.

The heat-resistant capsule, which had been ejected earlier, parachuted to a soft landing inside Australia's military testing range at Woomera before being retrieved by helicopter late on Monday.

It will remain within the secure military site until it is taken to Japan.

"They (scientists) are inspecting the outside of the capsule," the JAXA spokesman said.

The probe, which appears intact, is expected to remain sealed for several weeks while it undergoes a battery of tests. So scientists will not know for some months whether it was able to collect any material from the asteroid.

The was launched in May 2003 and reached the Itokawa asteroid in September 2005.

Its return to Earth was delayed for three years by technical problems and scientists had been concerned it might not be able to complete the journey, or could become lost in the vast Australian desert.

JAXA officials were delighted when they were able to land the probe exactly where they predicted, completing an historic mission in which the capsule became the first to complete a journey to an and back to Earth.

Explore further: Holiday lights on the Sun: SDO imagery of a significant solar flare

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Japanese asteroid probe returns to Earth (Update)

Jun 13, 2010

A Japanese space probe which scientists hope contains material from the surface of an asteroid returned to Earth on Sunday, Japan's space agency JAXA said, landing in the remote Australian outback.

Japanese space probe Hayabusa close to home

Jun 08, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Hayabusa, the Japanese space probe launched in 2003, is returning home from its five-billion-kilometer round-trip journey to collect samples from the asteroid 25143 Itokawa.

Aborigines to view Japanese spacecraft on landing

Jun 11, 2010

Australian Aborigines will be among the first to view a Japanese space probe after it crashes to Earth in the outback this weekend, to ensure it does not affect sacred sites, officials said Friday.

Recommended for you

Scientists 'map' water vapor in Martian atmosphere

5 hours ago

Russian scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), together with their French and American colleagues, have ...

Water fleas prepared for trip to space

10 hours ago

Local 'Daphnia' waterfleas are currently being prepared by scientists at the University of Birmingham for their trip to the International Space Station (ISS), where they will be observed by astronauts.

The worst trip around the world

10 hours ago

As you celebrate the end of the year in the warmth of your home, spare a thought for the organisms riding with a third-class ticket on the International Space Station – bolted to the outside with no protection ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TJ_alberta
not rated yet Jun 15, 2010
why do the people picking it up need bomb disposal squad gear?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.