TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese spacecraft is nearing Earth after a yearlong journey home from a distant asteroid with soil samples and data that could provide clues to the origins of the solar system, a space agency official said Friday.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth, a year ago and is expected to reach Earth and drop a capsule containing the precious samples in southern Australia on Dec. 6.
Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency believe the samples, especially those taken from under the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.
Makoto Yoshikawa, a Hayabusa2 project mission manager, said scientists are especially interested in analyzing organic materials in the Ryugu soil samples.
“Organic materials are origins of life on Earth, but we still don(asterisk)t know where they came from,” Yoshikawa said. “We are
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