Japanese Space Agency Confirms Hayabusa Capsule's Landing Site

Japanese Space Agency Confirms Hayabusa Capsule's Landing Site

UPDATE: See truly amazing video from a NASA DC-8 of the reentry on YouTube. You can see the mother spacecraft burning up as a fireball while the return capsule continues on its descent.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reports that it has confirmed the landing site of the asteroid sample return capsule from the spacecraft Hayabusa (also known as Muses-C). The capsule landed in the Woomera Prohibited Area in Australia. The mother spacecraft burned up in the atmosphere as planned; only the capsule was designed to survive reentry. The BBC adds that the capsule will not be approached until daylight local time and “safety and sterilisation protocols will not permit the capsule’s evacuation and transfer to Japan for several days.”

Scientists are wondering what samples are in the capsule. The Hayabusa mission survived a number of technical challenges during its 7 year mission, one of which reportedly was that the mechanism that was intended to grab a sample from the surface of the asteroid after the spacecraft landed malfunctioned. The BBC reports that Japanese scientists remain optimistic that, at a minimum, enough dust would have been generated by the spacecraft’s landing that some of it would have made its way into the chamber of the return capsule.

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