The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced that its attempt to bring a chunk of asteroid back to Earth will touch down in December.
JAXA has roped in the Australian Space Agency, because the Hayabusa2 mission’s asteroid sample capsule will land in the state of South Australia on December 6th.
Hayabusa2 launched in 2014 and arrived at asteroid 162173 Ryugu in June 2018. Ryugu is a near-Earth asteroid about 1km in diameter, making it a rather small target. In February 2019 the probe obtained samples from the asteroid and before its November 2019 departure for Earth.
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JAXA has long flagged December 2020 as the likely time of the probe’s return, but hasn’t previously explained where it was expected to touch down.
That changed today with news of the South Australian landing.
Just where in the State the probe will touch down was not revealed, but the first Hayabusa mission targeted the Woomera Prohibited Area, a rocket range in the State’s interior that was once the UK’s first spaceport.
News of the Australian landing comes just five days after Australia and Japan signed a new memorandum of cooperation. It also comes the day after a very fine-looking meteor passed over the Vulture East office here in Sydney, Australia.
Your humble hack was lucky enough to see the object as I walked home, and then chortled as social media reaction to the event contemplated whether Australians should prepare for 2020 to offer up the spectre of alien invasion on top of fires and pandemics. ®