The photo above shows the sample return capsule of Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft, on the ground in South Australia’s Woomera Prohibited Area. The parachute that brought the capsule safely to the ground lies limp next to it.
We’re waiting on word that the capsule has been recovered, the first step on the final leg of its 6-billion-kilometre journey to Japan. It is hoped the capsule will contain some samples of asteroid Itokawa.
Watch a video of the re-entry.
The image below shows the trail through the sky by the fiery destruction of the Hayabusa mothercraft, going from right to left. If you look closely, a smaller trail (just above and about halfway along the main trail) is that of the heat shield-protected sample return capsule.
Images courtesy JAXA / NASA / SETI Institute / University of North Dakota.