In a streak of light across the night sky, samples collected from a distant asteroid arrived on Earth on Sunday after being dropped off by Japanese space probe Hayabusa2, AFP-JIJI reports. Scientists hope the precious 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.
The samples were collected by Hayabusa2, which launched in 2014, from the asteroid Ryugu, some 300 million km from Earth. The material collected from the asteroid is believed to be unchanged since the time the universe was formed.
The samples, which fell to Earth in a capsule that was recovered in the southern Australian desert, will now be processed before being sent to Japan.
But hang on space cadets, that’s not all: Japan has been active on a number of related fronts, including satellites and work to send a lunar lander to the moon.
Late last month, it launched a rocket carrying satellites designed to relay data collected by other reconnaissance satellites already in orbit, enabling faster and more information-rich communication when responding to natural disasters, according to Kyodo. Meanwhile, Japanese lunar exploration startup Ispace Inc. said it will set up a lunar lander development site in the United States by the end of the year in a bid to deliver payloads, including research equipment, to the moon in support of future NASA missions.
This all comes after Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, one of only three people known to have launched in three different types of spacecraft, said that he is still trying to adapt to life in space after arriving at the International Space Station aboard a commercially developed SpaceX Crew Dragon ship last month.