Hayabusa 2 was last seen with the naked eye, Barack Obama was the President of the United States and Brexit was the imagination of a distant Eurofob.
Six years and three days after the start of its groundbreaking mission, the Japanese spacecraft will drop a capsule carrying the Australian outback that scientists believe could shed light on the solar system and the source of life.
After it reaches the skies above Oomira in South Australia early on Sunday, the probe will complete a round trip of about b billion km (3.7 billion miles) that will include two short stops on the moving surface. Asteroids.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JACSA) said the unmanned aircraft would drop the capsule from an altitude of about 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles).
Sunday’s mission will mark the peak of the B30 billion (21 215 million) mission when Hayabusa 2, also known as the Falcon in Japanese, left the Tenegashima space station in southwestern Japan in December 2014.
Naming Raigu after the Japanese mythical underside dragon palace – the probe into the asteroid has reached a stalemate – in June 2018 after traveling 3.2bn km in elliptical orbit around the sun for more than three years.
Several complex stages of the mission came in February last year, when it briefly landed in Ryugu and a small tantalum pellet on the planet’s surface fired shots to collect dust, before capturing its position.
Five months later, when it reached for the second time to collect isolated rock fragments and soil from under the surface of the 6 billion-year-old asteroid, it achieved a world number one position.
Jaxa These sub-surface samples contain carbon and organic matter, believed to be in the same condition as when the solar system was formed, protected from space radiation and other environmental elements.
Makoto Yoshikawa, project manager for the Jaxar Hayabusa II project, said scientists were particularly interested in analyzing organic matter in the Raigu sample.
“Organic matter is the source of life on Earth, but we still don’t know where it came from,” Yoshikawa said at a briefing. “We hope to discover the source of life on Earth by analyzing in detail the organic matter brought back by Hayabusa II.”
The capsule, protected by the heat shield, will turn into a fire when it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere above 200 km. A parachute will be opened about 10 km above the ground and, if all can be planned, the capsule will send a signal indicating its location on the ground.
Jaxa experts who arrived in Oomira last month have placed satellite dishes at several locations to pick up signals, and the Australian Space Agency and the Department of Defense will be on standby to assist in search and rescue missions.
Without local assistance, it would be “extremely difficult” to search for the capsule, which is only 40 centimeters in diameter, Yoshikawa said.
The work of Hayabus 2 will not be done at that stage yet. Following the release of the capsule, it will embark on a more distant asteroid called 1998KY26, on a mission that is expected to last a decade.