A capsule containing experiment samples from the International Space Station arrived on Japan’s easternmost island on Monday for further delivery to a space center in the country, after splashing down in the Pacific a day before.
On Minamitori Island, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency will take out the samples from the capsule — protein crystals grown in zero gravity on the ISS — and airlift them to an airport in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, on Tuesday.
The samples, the first of their kind successfully retrieved by Japan from the ISS, will then be taken to the Tsukuba Space Center by car for analysis.
As proteins are sensitive to thermal stress in general, JAXA plans to carefully check whether the samples have withstood the extreme heat during the capsule’s re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere and have maintained their initial condition.
It is hoped the mission will provide knowledge and skills essential for the country to develop manned spacecraft in the future, according to JAXA officials.
In September, Japan’s unmanned cargo vessel Kounotori7 was launched on an H-2B rocket, delivering the capsule, measuring 84 centimeters in width and 66 cm in height, and other supplies to the ISS.
The vessel departed from the space station last Thursday and released the parachute-equipped capsule on Sunday morning before burning up with waste from the ISS during re-entry, JAXA said.
The capsule fell into waters around 660 kilometers south-southeast of Minamitori Island and was retrieved. After the samples are removed, the capsule will also be transported by ship to the Tsukuba Space Center later in the month.