The Range Operations centre of the Royal Australian Air Force's Woomera Range Complex in South Australia.(AFP)
The Range Operations centre of the Royal Australian Air Force's Woomera Range Complex in South Australia.(AFP)

Japan spacecraft approaches Earth to drop asteroid samples

The capsule is to be released 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) away in space and land in a remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera, Australia, on Sunday.
By Associated Press | Posted by Kunal Gaurav | Tokyo
PUBLISHED ON DEC 04, 2020 06:18 PM IST

Japanese space agency officials said Friday the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is on its intended trajectory as it approaches Earth to deliver a capsule containing samples from a distant asteroid that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.

The spacecraft left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) away, a year ago. The capsule is to be released 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) away in space and land in a remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera, Australia, on Sunday.

Hayabusa2 is flying smoothly according to plan, Yuichi Tsuda, project manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, said at a briefing ahead of the critical separation of the capsule from the spacecraft on Saturday.

“We trained ourselves and now we are fully prepared. So I’m just praying that equipment that hasn’t been used yet will work well and that there will be good weather in Australia,” he said. “We are so excited.”

In the early hours of Sunday, the capsule, protected by a heat shield, will briefly turn into a fireball as it reenters the atmosphere 120 kilometers (75 miles) above Earth. At about 10 kilometers (6 miles) above ground, a parachute will open to slow its fall and beacon signals will be transmitted to indicate its location.

JAXA staff have set up satellite dishes at several locations in the target area to receive the signals, while also preparing marine radar, drones and helicopters to assist in the search and retrieval of the pan-shaped capsule, 40 centimeters (15 inches) in diameter.

Scientists say they believe the samples, especially ones taken from under the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors. They are particularly interested in analyzing organic materials in the samples.

JAXA hopes to find clues to how the materials are distributed in the solar system and are related to life on Earth.

For Hayabusa2, it’s not the end of the mission it started in 2014. After dropping the capsule, it will return to space and head to another distant small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey slated to take 10 years one way.

So far, its mission has been fully successful. It touched down twice on Ryugu, despite its extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during the 1½ years it spent near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.

In its first touchdown in February 2019, it collected surface dust samples. In a more challenging mission in July that year, it collected underground samples from the asteroid for the first time in space history after landing in a crater that it created earlier by blasting the asteroid’s surface.

Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and therefore may help explain how Earth evolved.

Ryugu in Japanese means “Dragon Palace,” the name of a sea-bottom castle in a Japanese folk tale.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
A Covid-19 patient, one of 12 to be transferred in a military airplane, is assisted by medical staff at the Ponta Pelada airport in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil, on January 15, 2021, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.(AFP)
A Covid-19 patient, one of 12 to be transferred in a military airplane, is assisted by medical staff at the Ponta Pelada airport in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil, on January 15, 2021, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.(AFP)

How we got to two million Covid-19 deaths

AFP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 08:41 AM IST
On April 2 more than 3.9 billion people -- half of the world's population -- were forced or called on to confine themselves, according to an AFP count. The same day the threshold of one million cases is crossed.
Close
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said US was also increasing the scope of metals-related sanctions against Iran administered by the State Department.(Reuters)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said US was also increasing the scope of metals-related sanctions against Iran administered by the State Department.(Reuters)

US imposes fresh sanctions on Iran in final days of Trump presidency

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 08:31 AM IST
During his four years in office, Trump has tried to force Tehran back into talks over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its activities in the Middle East.
Close
The experts issued a series of recommendations, which WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accepted and sent to the U.N. agency's 194 member states, a statement said.
The experts issued a series of recommendations, which WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accepted and sent to the U.N. agency's 194 member states, a statement said.

WHO stops short of advising proof of Covid-19 shots for travel

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 08:20 AM IST
The WHO's Emergency Committee, composed of 19 independent experts, held its sixth meeting in a year as the global death toll from the pandemic reached two million among more than 90 million cases.
Close
This combination of photos shows various podcasts, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Major social platforms have been cracking down on the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. But Apple and Google, among others, have left open a major loophole: Podcasts. (AP Photo/David Hamilton)(AP)
This combination of photos shows various podcasts, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Major social platforms have been cracking down on the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. But Apple and Google, among others, have left open a major loophole: Podcasts. (AP Photo/David Hamilton)(AP)

Post US Capitol riots, Podcasts help extremists get their message out

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 08:04 AM IST
Podcasting “plays a particularly outsized role” in propagating white supremacy, said a 2018 report from the Anti-Defamation League. Podcasting lets extremists expound on their ideas for hours at a time, said Oren Segal of ADL’s Center on Extremism.
Close
A resident wearing a mask past by a mural depicting idyllic home life in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. (AP)
A resident wearing a mask past by a mural depicting idyllic home life in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. (AP)

US steps up claims Covid-19 may have escaped from Chinese lab

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:58 AM IST
China has repeatedly rejected charges that the virus might have emerged from a laboratory. But the US has obtained new information about illnesses at the lab.
Close
Sameera Fazili comes to the White House from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, where she was director of engagement for the community and economic development department.(Image via Twitter)
Sameera Fazili comes to the White House from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, where she was director of engagement for the community and economic development department.(Image via Twitter)

Joe Biden taps Kashmir- born Sameera Fazili as US National Economic Council

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:19 AM IST
Fazili previously served in the Obama administration as a senior adviser at the NEC and at the Treasury Department, where she spent time in the offices of Domestic Finance and International Affairs.
Close
A man and child with protective masks walk outside a market as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic continues, in Karachi, Pakistan.(Reuters)
A man and child with protective masks walk outside a market as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic continues, in Karachi, Pakistan.(Reuters)

Pakistan has not placed any orders for Covid-19 vaccine, says health official

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:06 AM IST
While Pakistan has reported a total of 514,338 Covid-19 cases and 10,863 deaths, the country's top health expert said that though China's Sinopharm has submitted its data with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) but no agreement has been made on its procurement.
Close
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said priority must be given to those who are "on the front line: humanitarian personnel and populations at high risk."(HT PHOTO.)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said priority must be given to those who are "on the front line: humanitarian personnel and populations at high risk."(HT PHOTO.)

UN head warns of 'vaccinationalism' as global coronavirus deaths top 2 million

AFP
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:05 AM IST
Without naming names, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres criticized the fact that "some countries are pursuing side deals, even procuring beyond need."
Close
German chancellor Angela Merkel(AP)
German chancellor Angela Merkel(AP)

Who are German chancellor Merkel's potential successors

Reuters
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:45 AM IST
Here's a look at the top contenders who could succeed Merkel
Close
The impact of US President Donald Trump's conservative judicial appointments is plain to see.(Reuters)
The impact of US President Donald Trump's conservative judicial appointments is plain to see.(Reuters)

On guns, abortion and voting rights, Trump leaves lasting mark on US judiciary

Reuters, Washington
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 06:57 AM IST
When Trump took office, Democratic-appointed judges held majorities on nine of the 13 appeals courts. Under Trump, the 11th Circuit and two other regional appeals courts have "flipped" to have a majority of Republican appointees.
Close
In a sign of his post-Trump ambitions, Pompeo urged followers of his official State Department Twitter account to start following his personal one.(REUTERS)
In a sign of his post-Trump ambitions, Pompeo urged followers of his official State Department Twitter account to start following his personal one.(REUTERS)

Pompeo offers burst of actions, attacks before leaving State

AP, Washington
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 06:54 AM IST
With a potential eye on a 2024 presidential run, Pompeo has doubled down on his support for Trump, even as other Cabinet members have resigned or stayed out of sight in the aftermath of the Capitol violence.
Close
Members of the National Guard walk past the dome of the Capitol Building on Capitol Hill in Washington.(AP)
Members of the National Guard walk past the dome of the Capitol Building on Capitol Hill in Washington.(AP)

US Capitol riots: FBI questioning dozens in killing of police officer, assaults

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 06:09 AM IST
The FBI detailed its investigation in a memo sent to the private sector and others on Friday, the New York Times reported.
Close
While the number of deaths is likely to recede as more and more people get vaccinated, herd immunity won’t be achieved until at least 70% of the population is protected, experts including Anthony Fauci have said.(Biplov Bhuyan/HT photo for representation)
While the number of deaths is likely to recede as more and more people get vaccinated, herd immunity won’t be achieved until at least 70% of the population is protected, experts including Anthony Fauci have said.(Biplov Bhuyan/HT photo for representation)

World hits 2 million Covid-19 deaths with cases still surging

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 06:04 AM IST
Overall, the U.S. is leading all countries in deaths with 388,705, with Brazil, India, Mexico and the U.K. next in line.
Close
The National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia.(AFP)
The National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia.(AFP)

National Rifle Association files bankruptcy, citing New York politics

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 06:03 AM IST
New York has been at the forefront of pursuing the NRA in court, with Attorney General Letitia James suing to dissolve the organization and accusing leader Wayne LaPierre and three others of fleecing it.
Close
On January 6, a group of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to protest legislators confirming electoral slates from battleground US states they thought were invalid.(REUTERS)
On January 6, a group of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to protest legislators confirming electoral slates from battleground US states they thought were invalid.(REUTERS)

Trump's approval rating plummets to all-time low of 29% following Capitol riots

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 06:02 AM IST
The poll said 68 per cent of people disapprove of his handling of the job, while 52 per cent say Trump bears a lot of responsibility for the violence and destruction that took place at the Capitol last week.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP