TOKYO — Japan’s space agency said Thursday its Hayabusa2 space probe returning to Earth late next year will drop its capsule containing asteroid samples in Australia’s southern desert.
The targeted landing area northwest of Woomera is the same location selected for the collection in 2010 of samples brought back by Japan’s previous asteroid probe. The area is managed by the Royal Australian Air Force.
Hayabusa2 is scheduled to leave the Ryugu asteroid 250 million kilometers from Earth by December.
It will continue to carry out a probe mission after releasing the sample capsule, unlike its predecessor Hayabusa which burnt up in the Earth’s atmosphere after separating from its capsule.
Hayabusa2 collected asteroid samples last month after it produced an artificial crater to explore the origin of life and the evolution of the solar system.