Japanese Scientists Begin to Open Hayabusa Sample Return Capsule

Japanese Scientists Begin to Open Hayabusa Sample Return Capsule

Japanese scientists are in the process of opening the sample return capsule from the Hayabusa asteroid mission that completed its journey on June 13. The capsule was flown from its landing site in Australia to Japan and is now at a special curation facility at the Sagamihara Campus. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that it began opening the capsule today and the process will take one week.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government is considering a follow-on mission dubbed Hayabusa-2 that would visit a different kind of asteroid. Hayabusa landed on an “S-Type” asteroid while the new mission would visit a “C-Type” asteroid designated 1999 JU3. (For more on the different types of asteroids, visit The Planetary Society’s website.) The proposed Hayabusa-2 would include an impactor.

Meanwhile, everyone is waiting with baited breath to see what this Hayabusa returned. The spacecraft experienced a number of technical problems, one of which was an apparent failure of the mechanism that was intended to grab the sample. Scientists are hoping that at least some dust from the spacecraft’s landing managed to find its way into the return capsule. If not, the mission at a minimum was a great success in terms of troubleshooting mission-threatening problems and sending a spacecraft on a seven-year roundtrip journey with a pinpoint landing in the Australian outback.

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