Hayabusa Spacecraft Returns With Fiery Show
Japanese probe may have brought back asteroid dust.
(Watch a video of the probe's reentry.)
Arriving right on schedule, the Hayabusa spacecraft streaked across the skies above a vast desert in central Australia on June 13 at 11:51 p.m. local time. The probe jettisoned a small sample return capsule before breaking up and disintegrating in a shower of sparks in Earth's upper atmosphere.
The capsule continued its descent as a bright pinpoint of light for several more moments before deploying a parachute and landing in a sparsely populated military-testing zone in the South Australia (map) outback known as the Woomera Prohibited Area.
A search helicopter confirmed the capsule's location around 1 a.m. local time on June 14 and a team of scientists returned later that