Japan’s space agency on Tuesday said samples to study formation of the solar system and the origin of life have reached home.
“The samples are now in a safe environment,” Hitoshi Kuninaka, the vice president of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said at a news conference, Kyodo News reported.
The sample was collected by Japan’s Hayabusa2 space probe which successfully released its robotic explorer on the surface of an asteroid in last year.
JAXA retrieved the capsule from a remote Australian desert where it landed on Saturday. A plane carried it to Japan which landed early Tuesday morning at Tokyo's Haneda airport from where it was transported to JAXA’s Sagamihara Campus in the Kanagawa province.
“We would like to conduct a thorough analysis,” Kuninaka said.
Hayabusa2 was launched in December 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan and reached the Ryugu asteroid in June 2018.
“We made the decision to show the world that we were ready to recover (the capsule) at any cost,” Kuninaka added.
Yuichi Tsuda, the Hayabusa2 project manager, told reporters: “What had been on another world is now in front of our eyes. It's like a dream.” He added: “Hayabusa2 worked really hard.”
“Gas samples believed to be from the asteroid were observed in a preliminary analysis conducted in Australia,” JAXA said.
In October, the US space agency NASA also landed its spacecraft on an asteroid to collect samples that may be key to understanding the history of the solar system.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft landed on an ancient asteroid called Bennu, currently more than 200 million miles from the Earth, to collect dust and pebbles from the surface.