More than 200,000km away from Earth, a Japanese spacecraft at the weekend sent a capsule spinning to Earth, delivering samples from a distant asteroid to Woomera, Australia.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency project aims to provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on our planet. The Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million km away, a year ago.
This ambitious and precisely controlled operation follows a couple of other recent sparkling space achievements.
A Nasa craft grabbed surface samples from a different asteroid. And a Chinese lunar lander collected underground samples and sealed them for return to Earth.
The galaxy-sized gap between the high-tech achievements and organisation humankind is capable of, and yet the simple things many officials and citizens seem to struggle with, has been one of the unfortunate themes of this year.
For every celebrated achievement - such as a Covid-19 vaccine being approved in less than a year - there have also been botched and self-destructive responses to the pandemic.
Too many people in countries with high rates of infection have taken extra risks or had a dismissive or fatalistic attitude to the virus - even with vaccines in sight. For instance, a week ago millions of Americans ignored warnings to stay home and instead travelled to celebrate Thanksgiving.
In the United States, help may be around the corner but the country has gained its latest five million coronavirus cases in just under seven weeks. Its first five million cases took nearly seven months. There has never been a national plan in the US to combat Covid-19.
When Europe's coronavirus cases surged in October, a number of governments reimposed national restrictions which appear to be working.
After 66 million cases and 1.5 million deaths worldwide, the vaccines loom as a parachute to bring the pandemic to a soft landing.
But there has to be some question over whether the next period of distribution of doses, and the use of vaccinated status in daily life will highlight countries' more competent sides or their muddled ones.
There are still many unknowns around the impact of vaccinations and policy makers are sorting it out on the run.
Will there be some type of official notification issued when people get vaccinated and will people need to carry it for travel insurance and when overseas?
Will having proof of vaccination mean shortened isolation requirements for travel or - with negative tests - different levels of travel rules?
Could possible airline requirements to be vaccinated in order to fly spread to people not being able to attend places and special public events without it?
The British Government's vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi suggested that businesses such as pubs and restaurants would want to know if a customer has received a Covid vaccine before allowing entry.
"I think you'll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system," he said.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said that there were no plans for an "immunity passport". But he added: "Of course, individual businesses have the capacity to make decisions about who they will admit and why."
It seems likely Kiwis travelling overseas once vaccinations become widespread will have to be prepared for different rules for handling the issue.
The pandemic response has been a platter of competing interests, differing rules, messaging, restrictions and attitudes. That is likely to continue for some time.
Don't expect space-like precision, planning and seamlessness.