After 6 long years in the cold darkness of space, Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft completed its mission and returned to Earth, complete with its store of asteroid dust collected from asteroid Ryugu.
According to Reuters, the mission led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was to find out more about the origins of the solar system, and maybe even the origin of water, which is essential in sustaining life on Earth.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in 2014 and landed on Ryugu after four years of travelling through the harshest environment known to man. The spacecraft then made its way back to Earth in November 2019 after collecting the relevant samples from the asteroid.
The spacecraft landed in the Australian desert, around the Woomera area, 450km north of Adelaide. The Hayabusa team tweeted out images of the retrieval of the asteroid sample with even Elon Musk chiming in.
It is thought that asteroids were formed at the dawn of the solar system, which leads scientists to speculate that the sample could contain organic matter that may have contributed to life developing on Earth.
"What we are really doing here is trying to sample this pristine rock that has not been irradiated by the sun," astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
As far as scientific research goes, this is a huge step forward. Asteroids are believed to be some of the oldest formations in the universe and unlocking its secrets could give us answers to questions that have not yet even been asked.
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