Japan's Hayabusa 2 Mission Successfully Lands On The Surface Of Asteroid | The Tech Blog World


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Japan's Hayabusa 2 Mission Successfully Lands On The Surface Of Asteroid

Hayabusa2 is an asteroid sample-return mission operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA. It follows on from Hayabusa and addresses weak points identified in that mission. Hayabusa2 was launched on 3 December 2014 and rendezvoused with near-Earthasteroid 162173 Ryugu on 27 June 2018. It is in the process of surveying the asteroid for a year and a half, departing in December 2019, and returning to Earth in December 2020.

Hayabusa 2 is, as you might guess, a sequel to the original Hayabusa, which like this one was an asteroid sampling mission.

Japan's Hayabusa 2 Mission

Japan's Hayabusa 2 Mission Successfully Lands On The Surface Of Asteroid

Hayabusa2 carries multiple payloads for science: remote sensing, sampling, and four small rovers that will investigate the asteroid surface to gather an environmental context for the samples to be returned.

Ryugu is of a particularly primitive asteroid variety, and studying it could shed light on the origin and evolution of Earth. Initially, launch was planned for 30 November 2014 (13:23 local time), but was delayed to 3 December 2014 04:22 UTC (4 December 2014 13:22:04 local time).
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Hayabusa2 arrived at the target asteroid 162173 Ryugu (formerly designated 1999 JU3) on 27 June 2018. It is expected to survey the asteroid, which is a near-Earth asteroid, for a year and a half during which time it will collect samples multiple times, depart in December 2019, and return the samples to Earth in December 2020.

Compared to the previous Hayabusa mission, the spacecraft features improved ion engines, guidance and navigation technology, antennas, and attitude control systems. An additional impact device will be used to excavate the asteroid subsurface for sample material.

Hayabusa 2 is, as you might guess, a sequel to the original Hayabusa, which like this one was an asteroid sampling mission. So this whole process isn’t without precedent, though some of you may be surprised that asteroid mining is essentially old hat now.

Hayabusa2 arrived at the target asteroid 162173 Ryugu (formerly designated 1999 JU3) on 27 June 2018.

But as you might also guess, the second mission is more advanced than the first. Emboldened by and having learned much from the first mission, Hayabusa 2 packs more equipment and plans a much longer stay at its destination.

That destination is an asteroid in an orbit between the Earth and Mars named Ryugu. Ryugu is designated “Type C,” meaning it is thought to have considerable amounts of water and organic materials, making it an exciting target for learning about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and the history of this (and perhaps other) solar systems.

It launched in late 2014 and spent the next several years in a careful approach that would put it in a stable orbit above the asteroid; it finally arrived this summer. And this week it descended to within 55 meters (!) of the surface and dropped off two of four landers it brought with. Here’s what it looked like as it descended towards the asteroid:

These “MINERVA” landers (seen in render form up top) are intended to hop around the surface, with each leap lasting some 15 minutes due to the low gravity there. They’ll take pictures of the surface, test the temperature, and generally investigate wherever they land.

The big news will come next year, when Hayabusa 2 itself drops down to the surface with the “small carry-on impactor,” which it will use to create a crater and sample below the surface of Ryugu. This thing is great. It’s basically a giant bullet: a 2-kilogram copper plate mounted in front of an explosive, which when detonated fires the plate towards the target at about two kilometers per second, or somewhere around 4,400 miles per hour.


The orbiter will not just observe surface changes from the impact, which will help illuminate the origins of other craters and help indicate the character of the surface, but it will also land and collect the “fresh” exposed substances.

All in all it’s a fabulously interesting mission and one that JAXA, Japan’s NASA equivalent, is uniquely qualified to run. You can bet that asteroid mining companies are watching Hayabusa 2 closely, since a few years from now they may be launching their own versions of it.

Staff Writer    Updated On : Sunday, September 23, 2018

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