The probe took the material from the Ryugu asteroid. Scientists with Japan’s space agency are looking for clues about the formation of the solar system. Launched in 2014, the mission will end in November or December next year.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced today that its Hayabusa 2 space probe left an asteroid on which it landed to collect samples and will travel some 800 million kilometres to deliver them to Earth in November or December next year.
The probe’s journey home, previously planned for the end of 2019, was brought forward after it successfully completed its planned tasks.
Hayabusa 2, which departed from the Ryugu asteroid at 10.05 am, began its mission in 2014 after it was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre, Tanegashima Island, south-western Japan, not far from the big island of Kyushu.
The space probe was tasked with gaining clues about the formation of the solar system and the origins of life from the asteroid, whose underground materials, unaffected by solar flares, are believed to be in the state they were when the solar system was formed 4.6 billion years ago.
The probe will release a capsule containing the samples collected in July, which landing in the desert of South Australia, JAXA said.
Hayabusa 2 began traveling away from Ryugu at a speed of around 0.09 meters per second, and will continue to take images of the asteroid as it moves away.
The space probe will adjust its position when it is 65 km from Ryugu, a distance at which it is out of the asteroid's gravitational pull, five days from now.
The probe will then test its ion engine, its main source of propulsion through 2 December before accelerating and travelling towards the Earth.