When Hayabusa 2 was last seen with the naked eye, Barack Obama was the president of the United States and a distant European fantasy of Brexit.
Six years and three days later, the Japanese spacecraft will drop a capsule off the Australian coast, carrying beautiful asteroid fragments that scientists believe are about the formation of the solar system and the origin of life.
By the time it reaches the sky early Sunday morning over Womera in southern Australia, the study will have completed its orbit of about 6 billion km (3.7 billion miles), including two brief stops. The surface of a moving asteroid.
The unmanned craft will release the capsule from an altitude of about 220,000 km (136,700 miles), Japan According to the Space Research Organization (Jaxa).
Sunday’s action marks the culmination of a ¥ 30 billion (5,115m) mission to Hayapusa 2, meaning “Balkan” in Japanese, which began in December 2014 when it left the Tanekashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.
Named Riku after a dragon palace under the Japanese fairy tale, the asteroid reached its peak above – in June 2018, it orbited the Sun for more than three years in an elliptical orbit of 3.2 billion km.
One of the many important phases of this work came briefly in February last year Landed in Riku And punctured a small tantalum hole in the surface of the asteroid, to kick the dust to collect, before returning to its holding position.
Five months later, it reached world number one when it landed for the second time Collect the removed rock fragments and soil From the surface of the 4.6 billion year old asteroid.
Jaxa Those sub-surface models are believed to contain carbon and organic matter, which are in the same condition as they were when the solar system formed, as they are protected from space radiation and other environmental factors.
Makoto Yoshikawa, Jaxa’s Hayabusa 2 project manager, said scientists were particularly interested in analyzing the organic matter in the Ryu model.
“Organic products are the origin of life on Earth, but we still do not know where they came from,” Yoshikawa told a conference. “We hope that by analyzing the details of the organic matter that Hayabusa 2 brought back, we will find traces of the origin of life on Earth.”
The capsule, protected by a thermal shield, turns into a fireball when it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere at a distance of 200 km. At a distance of about 10 km from the ground, a parachute will open and if everything goes to plan, the capsule will send signals indicating its location on the ground.
Jaxa experts who arrived in Womera last month have set up satellite dishes at several locations to pick up signals, while Australians Location The agency and the Department of Defense will be on standby to assist in the search and rescue mission.
Yoshikawa said the search for the capsule, which is just 40 cm in diameter, would be “very difficult” without local help.
However, the work of Hayabaus Cha2 has not yet been done. After the capsule was released, it was named a distant asteroid, 1998KY26, which is expected to last a decade.