Hayabusa 2 Touches Down, Collects Asteroid Pattern

February 25, 2019 - Comment

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 has touched down on Ryugu, the asteroid it has been orbiting since final summer time, and picked up a pattern from its floor. Apply makes excellent. Final week, Hayabusa 2 dove to seize a pattern from the floor of the asteroid 162173 Ryugu, swooping down like its namesake peregrine falcon.


The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 has touched down on Ryugu, the asteroid it has been orbiting since final summer time, and picked up a pattern from its floor.

Apply makes excellent.

Final week, Hayabusa 2 dove to seize a pattern from the floor of the asteroid 162173 Ryugu, swooping down like its namesake peregrine falcon. All of it went completely based on plan: the second the pattern horn made contact a tantalum bullet fired on the floor, knocking away asteroid materials that flew up into the horn. Then the spacecraft flew up and away. Hayabusa 2 has now sealed the pattern assortment compartment, saving the pattern for return to Earth in December 2020.

Descent to Ryugu

Hayabusa 2 took this photograph with its optical navigation digicam from 180 meters earlier than it entered its closing descent to seize a pattern from asteroid Ryugu.
JAXA / Tokyo Univ. / Kochi Univ. / Rikkyo Univ. / Nagoya Univ. / Chiba Institute of Know-how / Meiji Univ. / Aizu Univ. / AIST

All of it appears really easy, however that ease didn’t occur with out plenty of work and fear. 13 years in the past, Hayabusa 2’s predecessor, Hayabusa, suffered some type of harm throughout its two sampling makes an attempt, and the bullet-firing mechanism didn’t work. It took extraordinary creativity and persistence for Hayabusa’s engineers to convey the spacecraft again to Earth, and the pattern capsule it returned contained only some micrograms of mud. The reminiscence of these struggles weighed closely on those that labored on Hayabusa 2, one in every of whom remarked that the profitable pattern seize was “revenge” for Hayabusa’s travails.

Pattern Seize

Discovering the appropriate spot to pattern Ryugu was more difficult than anticipated. Itokawa had possessed massive “ponds,” comparatively clean deposits of mud and small gravel. Hayabusa sampled one in every of these. However when Hayabusa 2 arrived at Ryugu on June 27, 2018, no such ponds had been seen — the asteroid was uniformly rocky.

The staff needed to develop new sampling website choice standards, as a result of no website on Ryugu matched the standards they’d developed earlier than launch. The scientists outlined two extraordinarily slim touchdown websites the place they’d must navigate the spacecraft between doubtlessly damaging rocks. The staff tried out descending towards these websites twice. Again on Earth, they examined whether or not the bullet-firing mechanism would liberate sufficient materials from a rocky floor; it appeared to, so that they proceeded, and all of it labored completely — in all probability.

Post-touchdown

Hayabusa 2 took this image of Ryugu on February 22nd because the spacecraft started ascending instantly after its temporary landing. Hayabusa 2’s shadow may be seen, together with a darkish splotch the place the spacecraft’s thrusters blew away lighter supplies on Ryugu’s floor.
JAXA / Tokyo Univ. / Kochi Univ. / Rikkyo Univ. / Nagoya Univ. / Chiba Institute of Know-how / Meiji Univ. / Aizu Univ. / AIST

We gained’t know for absolute positive simply how profitable the sampling operation was till Hayabusa 2 returns to Earth. The spacecraft has no approach of measuring simply how a lot materials made it into the chamber. Nonetheless, all of the spacecraft telemetry, from the speed profile of the descent and ascent to the temperature adjustments contained in the pattern horn, are per profitable sampling.

What’s Subsequent?

Hayabusa 2 might truly acquire two extra samples, putting them into two extra assortment compartments within the pattern return capsule. Now, the mission has to determine whether or not acquiring the extra pattern can be definitely worth the extra danger.

Hayabusa 2 additionally has a (actually) flashy experiment but to carry out. It has a deployable Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), a principally copper spacecraft containing explosives that may create a man-made crater on Ryugu’s floor. Hayabusa 2 will shelter from the explosion behind the asteroid’s bulk, however it will be a disgrace to set off a firework and never get to see it explode. So Hayabusa 2 additionally has a deployable digicam, DCAM3, which it would launch shortly after SCI deploys to (hopefully) get hold of views of the crater’s formation. If the experiment is profitable, the staff would comply with by sampling materials from the crater. With the ability to straight evaluate materials from the asteroid’s weathered floor to its comparatively pristine inside can be a boon to scientists, who should typically decide bulk composition from distant observations of asteroids’ surfaces.

Hayabusa 2 should watch for planetary alignment to start out its journey again to Earth, so it would stay in proximity to Ryugu till November or December. Its return will take a few 12 months. After dropping the pattern within the Australian desert on December 7, 2020, the spacecraft might doubtlessly go on to an prolonged mission, a flyby previous one other asteroid. Hopefully, the pattern capsule will comprise plenty of asteroid materials, which Japan will share with researchers and labs world wide.



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