Hayabusa2 Spacecraft Successfully Lands on Ryugu Asteroid

Pablo Tucker
July 12, 2019

Japan's Hayabusa2 probe landed successfully yesterday on a distant asteroid for a final touchdown, with the aim of collecting samples that could shed light on the evolution of the solar system.

JAXA's Hayabusa2 project is an asteroid sample-return mission like NASA's OSIRIS-REx.

"We've collected a part of the solar system's history", Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) project manager Yuichi Tsuda said at a jubilant news conference in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, hours after the successful landing was confirmed. It has now successfully collected the first subsurface samples from the asteroid to help in exploring the history of our solar system and the origin of life.

The first landing happened earlier this year and is believed to have collected some material.

According to scientists, Ryugu is a rubble-pile asteroid: A collection of rocks and dust held together loosely by gravity.

The Hayabusa2 adventure, at a cost of around 30 billion yen (270 million dollars), began on December 3, 2014, when the probe began a journey of 3,200 million kilometers to reach Ryugu, at a distance average of 340 million kilometers of Earth, since it is impossible to go in a straight line.

That wasn't for fun, of course, but to bring up materials that may have been buried beneath the surface of asteroid that may have been buried for millennia.

It also captured photographs 4 seconds before and after landing, displaying a smattering of rocks as the spacecraft made effect.JAXA tweeted: "These pix had been taken before and after landing through the small display camera".

The complex multi-year mission has additionally included sending wanderers and robots down to the surface.

Ryugu, which means "Dragon Palace" in Japanese, refers to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale.

Thursday's touchdown was planned to gather ideal materials from underneath the outside of the space rock that could give experiences into what the close planetary system resembled at its introduction to the world, some 4.6 billion years back.

Their work will also focus on whether the April impact made the material darker, or whether the crater's colour is typical of Ryugu's composition and the surface has been lightened by solar radiation.

The probe launched in December 2014 and arrived at the dice-shaped space rock on June 27, 2018.

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 the future missions, Hayabusa2, the second touchdown, will play a very important role".

The samples will re-enter the atmosphere and parachute down to the ground, somewhere in the Australian outback.

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