Probe returns to Earth after asteroid landing. Five years after touching down on a distant asteroid, Japan's Hayabusa space probe returned to Earth on Sunday, landing in the Australian Outback after a spectacular fireball. Recorded from NASA DC-8 over Australia
Officials at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) aren't sure whether the probe managed to collect samples from asteroid Itokawa after its three-month rendezvous with the small space rock in 2005. They would be the first samples returned from the surface of an asteroid.
The probe burned up on reentry, streaking through the night sky (see video here), and Hayabusa's heat-resistant container landed with the aid of a parachute in South Australia's Woomera Prohibited Range.