In the very late evening of Sunday 13 June 2010, Australia played an integral part in a major space exploration project, with the successful and safe return of the Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa, to Earth after a seven year journey.
Hayabusa become the first unmanned spacecraft to return to Earth having potentially collected a sample from the asteroid, Itokawa.
Former Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry, Mr Richard Marles, welcomed and praised the significant contribution of Australian authorities in ensuring Hayabusa's safe return.
“This is a truly monumental scientific first and I am proud of the contribution made by the Australians involved. Our vital contribution to such an important space discovery program demonstrates the leading role that Australia can play in the international space exploration community,” Mr Marles said.
Dramatic pictures of the spacecraft's re-entry were captured by media, officials, scientists and spectators, as the mothership burnt up on re-entry, releasing the sample return capsule, which landed safely in the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia's outback.
The Australian Government Space Policy Unit, including the Space Licensing and Safety Office, and Department of Defence officials, have been involved in the mission since 2003, in planning and preparing for the successful re-entry and recovery. Mr Marles congratulated the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on the success of its ambitious mission.
The Hayabusa sample return capsule has been taken back to Japan for analysis which will allow a team of international scientists - including an Australian scientist from the Australian National University - to analyse for the first time uncontaminated material from an asteroid. This will lead to a greater understanding of the composition of asteroids, including the effects of solar wind, and may even provide an insight into the evolution of our solar system.
(Image: Department of Defence)
Images and Video
Re-entry video of Hayabusa, captured by NASA onboard a DC8 aircraft, can be viewed on youtube.
Images of the Sample Return Capsule being recovered can be seen on the JAXA website and also on the Department of Defence image gallery.
Images of the former Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry, Mr Richard Marles, and Associate Executive Director of JAXA, Mr Yoshiyuki Hasegawa can be seen on the Department of Defence imagery gallery.