Japan’s little spacecraft that could returned to Earth, putting on quite a show over the Australian outback, making a fiery reentry. Hayabusa returned around 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) in the Woomera Prohibited Area of South Australia. In the video you’ll see a little speck of light ahead of the falling debris: that’s the sample return canister with, hopefully, some precious goods aboard – samples from asteroid Itokawa. The canister separated about three hours before reaching Earth, and returned to Earth via parachute. The canister has been recovered, and will be taken to Japan where scientists will open it to find out if there is anything inside.
The return was monitored scientists from around the world, including a NASA crew on aboard a DC-8 airplane who took the video footage.
I got a note from Col Maybury from radio station 2NUR in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. He said the final message from a Defense debriefing in Woomera at 2:30 am Monday, Woomera time was that all reports indicated the sample capsule had landed softly, and all appeared well.
Col reported that during the briefing, Alan Cole, Regional Manager of Defense Public Affairs, Woomera, told of a brilliant light throwing shadows on the ground as the spacecraft approached. The recovery was successful and it is hoped pristine material from the early days of the solar system will be available for analysis by scientists around the world.
JAXA has said that even one grain of sand like material can be cut into 100 or more samples that can be distributed world wide for analysis.
Col said the Ghan train, (which we talked about in our previous Hayabusa article) a passenger train that travels across Australia, would have had an outstanding view of the re-entry, a front row seat, as it crossed the lonely central Australian desert on its normal north south crossing of the Australian continent.
“It is not often a train and spacecraft cross paths in the remote, dark, clear and cold desert skies,” Col said.
“The passengers would have been enthralled.”