Japan’s asteroid sample return mission lands in Australian desert

An artistic rendering of Hayabusa2’s sample capsule landing on Earth | Image: JAXA

After spending six years in space, a Japanese spacecraft just landed in the desert of southern Australia, bringing a small cache of asteroid rocks to the surface of Earth. It’s only the second time in history that materials from an asteroid have been returned to our planet. Eventually, scientists will open the spacecraft up, uncovering the precious rocks within to learn more about the asteroids that permeate our Solar System.

The landing is the culmination of Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission, aimed at bringing samples of an asteroid back to Earth. After launching from Japan in 2014, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft spent four years journeying to an asteroid named Ryugu. The vehicle spent a year and a half hanging around the asteroid, mapping the rock’s…

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