'Amazing' Little Box Has Big Universe Answers


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A small box that has whizzed around the solar system and returned to Earth carrying a piece of an asteroid could reveal many of the mysteries of the universe.


The Japanese space capsule flaming back into the planet's atmosphere

The basketball-sized Japanese space capsule, in space for seven years, has landed in Australia's Outback.

Its unique journey marks the first time that a spacecraft has made contact with an asteroid and successfully returned to Earth.

And the information it carries could unveil how the planets were formed, as well as answer questions on the solar system's early history.

Australian defence force spokesman Lindsay Campbell said: "It's kind of weird that a little box could have answers to the universe in it.

"It's a pretty amazing moment."

The box parachuted into South Australia's remote Woomera military zone after being released from the Hayabusa spacecraft.

Australian National University scientist Trevor Ireland said the scientists studying the probe were "hyper", after fears the Hayabusa would not last the journey.

He said: "It was a huge worry that the parachute wouldn't go off, the (signalling) beacons wouldn't go off, and that it would come down in a mud lake and get lost in the landscape.

"It's already been a tremendous mission. It really is a fairytale."

The Japanese government's top spokesman, chief Cabinet secretary Yoshito Sengoku, said the spacecraft's achievements had "given courage, dreams and hope to us".

The probe was safely retrieved by the Japanese space agency Jaxa after Aboriginal elders checked it had not landed in any sacred sites.

It is now at the Woomera control centre, where it will remain closed until its return to Japan so that it can undergo rigorous checks.