A capsule has been recovered containing rock samples collected by NASA's OSIRIS REx spacecraft from the asteroid Bennu. This is the third successful recovery of samples from an asteroid, following Japan's Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 missions.
The first Hayabusa overcame a number of serious problems to land on "Asteroid 25143 Itokawa." It recovered surface samples and then returned to Earth in 2010. Its achievement paved the way for the success of this United States version of the Hayabusa.
In fact, the US team handling the asteroid probe reportedly carefully studied the first-generation Hayabusa mission. It used data gleaned from it as reference information for planning and other purposes.
It is very significant that Japan's space technology and experience have become needed and respected by the US, a major player in space exploration.
Becoming a country that is needed and respected by the international community and contributes to humanity in a wide range of scientific and technology fields must be a cornerstone for our national security. Furthermore, it should not be limited just to space.
Planning the Missions After Hayabusa
Following the first Hayabusa's asteroid exploration, Japan's Hayabusa2 and the US OSIRIS REx projects started almost simultaneously. Furthermore, Japan and the US repeatedly exchanged information and engaged in discussions to develop their respective plans. That the Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS REx missions both succeeded is the result of this Japan-US competition and cooperation.
Scientists hope that rock samples brought back from asteroids may provide clues about the formation of the solar system and the origin of life on Earth.
Asteroid probes in themselves do not directly translate into economic growth. Nevertheless, the trailblazing achievement of the original Hayabusa and the success of Hayabusa 2 have enhanced Japan's standing in the world. These economic ripple effects are also important. Moreover, the bedrock motivation for our science and technology policies should be their contribution to humanity and the international community.
The Importance of Small Inspirations
A popular movie made about the original Hayabusa's mission served to get many children interested in space and science. Many Japanese drew encouragement from the Hayabusa team's "never-give-up" attitude. And we were inspired by their "trying everything possible" determination, no matter how serious the difficulties they faced.
Thirteen years have passed since that moving and inspiring experience. Meanwhile, Japan's scientific and technological capabilities continue to seriously decline. And the country's space sector is enveloped in a bleak mood due to repeated failed rocket launches.
Even if they do not generate as much drama as the first-generation Hayabusa, establishing innovative technologies that are needed by other countries will enhance Japan's presence in the world and offer clues on how to break out from the prevailing mood of stagnation.
Let's do everything we can to build on the accomplishments of the original Hayabusa.
- Japan's Lunar Lander On Its Way to the Moon with Successful Rocket Launch
- Japan's H3 Rocket Launch: Self-Destruct Command Sent After Second Stage Engine Failure
- Hayabusa2 Returns With the World's First Extraterrestrial Gaseous Sample
(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun