Wednesday, 23 October, 2019

Japan Just Landed Its Spacecraft A On An Asteroid

Probe lands on asteroid; JAXA awaits data on sample collection:The Asahi Shimbun JAXA: Hayabusa2 has landed on Ryugu
Elijah Vega | 11 July, 2019, 18:47

The space probe Hayabusa2 successfully touched down for the second time on the asteroid Ryugu, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said Thursday, adding that it believes subsurface samples have been collected for the first-ever time.

The Ryugu asteroid is said to hovering in space since the beginning of the solar system. The probe is on an unprecedented mission to collect underground rock samples. The team believes comparing the surface samples subjected to eons of space weathering and the more pristine material from the interior will provide clues to the origins and evolution of the solar system.

The Hayabusa 1's space journey was regarded as a big victory after it successfully brought back rubble from a different asteroid in 2010.

Earlier this morning, JAXA also released a series of images taken immediately before and after the spacecraft's touchdown on Ryugu showing the gravel blasted out from beneath the surface that is now scattered across the asteroid's surface.

Hayabusa 2 will collect samples from beneath the surface of asteroid Ryugu, which contain rubble left over from the birth of planets.

Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 project manager, spoke to reporters, telling them: "This is the second touchdown, but doing a touchdown is a challenge whether it's the first or the second".

Plans call for Hayabusa 2 to leave Ryugu by the end of this year and return to Earth toward the end of 2020.

Hayabusa2 is the successor to the Japanese space agency's first asteroid explorer "Hayabusa", which means falcon in Japanese.

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With one of its most critical missions now finished, the next task is to get Hayabusa2 to safely return to Earth with the samples, Tsuda said.

For experts, they may contain chemical compounds that could have been important for kick-starting life on Earth, as well as water, organic (carbon-rich) compounds and precious metals.

Japan's Hayabusa2 probe touched down on a distant asteroid on July 11, the country's space agency said, on a mission to collect samples that could shed light on the history of the solar system.

Around 80 JAXA engineers controlling and tracking the mission from the control center in Sagamihara City, near Tokyo, burst into applause upon seeing the data that confirmed the probe's successful landing.

Prior to that, two small robotic rovers also launched from Hayabusa2 successfully landed on Ryugu on September 22, JAXA confirmed.

The 600-kg Hayabusa2, which was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan on December 2014, has experienced no problems, up until now, throughout its journey totaling 3.2 billion km.

Hayabusa2 observes the surface of Ryugu with its camera and sensing equipment but has also dispatched two tiny MINERVA-II rover robots as well as the French-German robot MASCOT to help surface observation.

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