The Hayabusa2 mission will land the first subsurface asteroid patterns on Earth


Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 mission is heading to Earth to drop the Sample Collection Capsule before moving on to the next part of its extended mission: to visit additional asteroids.

Although this event will take place on Sunday from 3:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Australian time, it will be on Saturday afternoon from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The capsule is expected to land on Earth about 15 minutes after it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

A fireball strikes through the early morning sky of the Australian hinterland during the return.

What scientists learned after firing a small cannonball at an asteroid near Earth

Hayabusa2 was launched on December 3, 2014 and arrived in June 2018 for the asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft collected a sample from the surface of the asteroid on February 22, 2019, then fired a copper “bullet” into the asteroid to form a 33-foot wide-impact crater. A sample was collected from this crater on July 11, 2019.

Hayabusa2 then left the asteroid in November 2019 and traveled back to Earth.

Overall, the mission’s scientific team believes 1 gram of material has been collected, but they can’t be sure until it is opened.

The new images show that Ryugu is a strangely dust-free asteroid

“It may sound a gram small, but to us a gram is huge,” Masaki Fujimoto, deputy director general of JAXA’s Department of Solar Systems, said at an online briefing organized by the Australian Science Media Center. “It’s enough to address our scientific issues.”

The agency’s first Hayabusa mission delivered Asteroid samples of Itokawa to Earth in June 2010, but scientists say they could only extract micrograms of dust from the asteroid due to a failure of the spacecraft sampling device.

Hayabusa2 visited the asteroid Ryugu to collect more samples.

“Ryugu is linked to the process that has made our planet habitable,” Fujimoto said. “Earth was born dry; it didn’t start with water. We believe that distant bodies like Ryugu have come to the interior of the Solar System, hit the Earth, transported water and made it habitable. This is the fundamental question we follow and we need samples of this. to resolve. “

Fiery return

As Hayabusa2 does not return to Earth, it throws out the 35-pound return capsule while swinging 136,701 miles past our planet over the weekend. The spaceship then changes its orbit to travel beyond Earth and move with its extended mission.

The Australian government has given permission to JAXA to deliver its capsule in the Woomera restricted area in South Australia. This remote area is used for testing by the Australian Ministry of Defense.

Japan transports spacecraft to distant asteroids to collect samples

The Japanese space agency had previously used this space when the Hayabusa landed in 2010. His partnership with Australia, the large, flat and open nature of the land, and the fact that the team can quickly transfer the sample from Australia to Japan have turned to JAXA.

Around 4 a.m. Australia time, the team searches for a fireball in the Australian sky.

Hayabusa2 casts the sample to Earth and continues its journey to other asteroids.

“For members outside the team, the fireball seems like the grand finale. But for us, this bell is ringing and telling us, ‘this is not an exercise,'” Fujimoto said.

The large landing zone extends 124 miles from north to south and 62 miles from east to west. The agency has designated this large area to offset the uncertainty caused by local wind speeds when using the capsule parachute.

The team will then try to find the capsule landing site as quickly as possible.

The “fireball” meteorite that fell to Earth in 2018 reveals its secrets

Once the capsule is found, a helicopter takes the scientists from the sample group to the landing site to collect them. The capsule is placed in a protective box and brought back to the headquarters, a temporary facility that was built.

The water in the samples is from the surface of an asteroid

This clean room allows the team to check the capsule and allow degassing. It is possible that the capsule has collected gases from the asteroid – which are likely to be emitted by a collected sample from the spacecraft. Any detection in the gas sample tank is a good sign that the material sample has been successfully collected from the asteroid.

As soon as the samples are returned to Japan and opened, an official announcement will be made about the amount of material collected from the asteroid, Fujimoto said.

Hayabusa2 will fly three asteroids between 2026 and 2031, finally reaching the fast-rotating 1998 KY26 micro-asteroid in July 2031, a million miles from Earth. This will be the first asteroid flight of its kind.

What is in an asteroid sample?

Asteroids are like remnants of the formation of our solar system, which stores information about the origins of the planets, as well as the vital elements that allow life to exist on Earth.

The 2 different asteroids visited by the spacecraft may once have been part of 1 larger asteroid

Ryugu is diamond-shaped and just over half a mile in diameter.

“I expect patterns from the asteroid Ryugu Hayabusa2 to be very similar to the meteorite that fell in Australia, near Victoria, near Victoria, more than 50 years ago,” said Trevor Ireland, a professor at the Australian National University School of Earth Sciences and in a statement is a member of the Hayabusa2 scientific team in Woomera.

“The Murchison meteorite has opened a window on the origins of organic matter on Earth as these rocks have been found to contain simple amino acids and abundant water. We are examining whether Ryugu is a potential source of organic matter and water on Earth when the Solar System formed and they continue to are also intact on the asteroid. “

Ryugu is also a near-Earth asteroid with an orbit between Earth and Mars. In December 2076, he will approach Earth closely and understand these potentially dangerous asteroids and allow the space agencies to divert them.

New images show the historic landing of NASA's spacecraft and a collection of samples on an asteroid

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission recently collected a sample from another near-Earth asteroid, Bennu, which is similar in composition to Ryugu. In fact, based on early data from the two missions, scientists working on both missions believe it is possible that these two asteroids once belonged to the same larger parent body before being separated by a blow.

The Bennu sample will be returned to Earth by 2023.

Patrick Michel, research director at the French National Research Center in Paris, is an investigator for both missions.

“It’s very important to recognize that no two asteroids are alike,” Michel told CNN in October. “Even if Bennu and Ryugu show intriguing similarities and fall into the same category (primitives), they also have very interesting differences. And these patterns will occupy generations of researchers as they will retain large quantities for future generations that will benefit. an increase in the technology and accuracy of the tools used to analyze them. “