The Japanese Hayabusa-2 probes arrive at Asteroid Ryugu

Feb. 18, 2018, 3:09 a.m. By: Kirti


Hayabusa2 that had its launch in December 2014 is operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA and is an asteroid sample return mission that has been followed on from Hayabusa which explored the asteroid Itokawa and addresses weak points learned from that mission. The Hayabusa mission, that in the year 2010 successfully returned samples to Earth was the first mission to return samples from any object aside from the moon outside the Earth.

Hayabusa 2 is on a six-year journey to meet up with asteroid Ryugu that is formerly known as 1999 JU3 in the year 2018. The probe will stick around Ryugu for nearly about 18 months and once it arrives on the asteroid, Hayabusa 2 spacecraft will collect samples to bring back to Earth by 2020 so that we can learn more about ancient building blocks of life on the planet.

Once it lands there, in order to collect asteroid materials it will drop several tiny Landers on Ryugu's surface. However, Seeker report that it will take a lot of engineering and precision will be needed to make this happen. As Hayabusa 2 makes it move towards its target, the scientists are gearing up and already looking at Ryugu to learn about its properties as its study is expected to yield more information on how organic matter and water behave in the solar system.

Talking about Ryugu, it is a C-type asteroid that when compared to Itokawa, an S-type asteroid is expected to have more organic and hydrated materials, JAXA officials wrote on the agency's website.

"It is very important to know the orbit with the best possible accuracy before you can send an interplanetary mission to a small body, but alongside you also have to know the object's properties," Said Thomas Mueller.

Astronomers are conducting a study based on data from the European Herschel Space Observatory and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope that is published on arXiv and accepted in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. The scientists using its light curve -- the change in light as seen from Earth -- tried to map the rotation of the object which led to estimating its spin and surface composition.

This latest research according to Mueller, will help engineers adjust their instrument settings, do risk assessments and develop future plans for what Hayabusa 2 will do once it arrives on the asteroid Ryugu.

Ryugu is not the first asteroid destination of JAXA. In September 2005, as already mentioned Hayabusa also did the same on asteroid Itokawa and from around 20 kilometres away started to map the asteroid's shape, spin, density and composition.

However, the first Hayabusa mission had been plagued with many problems as Its mini-lander MINERVA (Micro/Nano Experimental Robot Vehicle for Asteroid) had its deployment at a wrong time, that caused the lander to escape the asteroid's gravitational pull and tumble away in space. Fortunately, some samples by Itokawa arrived successfully on Earth.

The scientific payload of Hayabusa 2 when compared is much the same as Hayabusa, but with one notable addition: an explosive device in order to, off the asteroid, blast and collect fresh, sub-surface material.

Hayabusa2 will be known as the first Japanese mission that ESA will track in deep space. This mission, since ESA has its own dishes that can pick up Hayabusa2 when the spacecraft is out of range of Japan and thus pave a way for a greater return of science.

Japan launches Hayabusa 2: spacecraft will blast hole in asteroid and collect samples:

Video Source: TomoNews US