Hayabusa 2 Returns Sample of Asteroid Ryugu to Earth – Sky & Telescope

A pre-dawn operation to recover the Hayabusa 2 capsule in the Australian Outback over the weekend was a success.
An artist’s conception of Hayabusa 2 and capsule reentry

After a six-year journey of 5.24 billion kilometers (3.26 billion miles), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Company (JAXA) mission Hayabusa 2 returned to Earth on Saturday, December fifth, jettisoning its sample-return capsule throughout Earth flyby. Aboard: the valuable “treasure chest,” containing samples of asteroid 162173 Ryugu.

“We began to develop Hayabusa 2 in 2011, and since then, the dream has come true,” says Hitoshi Kuninaka (ISAS/JAXA) throughout a (translated) press convention. “We carried out the mission 100%… and the operations workforce did an excellent job.”

The pattern launch started at 5:30 Common Time (UT), when the capsule separated from the spacecraft. Spinning as soon as each three seconds, the capsule hit Earth’s ambiance at 12 kilometers per second (27,000 mph). JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi actually saw the capsule from aboard the Worldwide Area Station. The Saji Observatory in Japan additionally sighted both the spacecraft and capsule flying collectively by way of area, shortly after separation.

Reentry return is at all times a troublesome time for any mission workforce: Many within the area neighborhood nonetheless bear in mind the tragic return of NASA’s Genesis capsule in 2004, when the capsule’s drogue chute didn’t deploy and the capsule slammed to the bottom on the Utah Take a look at Vary.

Re-entry of the sample-return capsule, captured from Coober Pedy outlook close to Woomera.

Pattern in Hand

The restoration of Hayabusa 2’s capsule, nonetheless, went as deliberate. The capsule blazed its means over the Australian Outback within the early daybreak hours for landing over the Woomera Prohibited Space in southern Australia. Atmospheric entry began at 17:28 UT on December fifth. The capsule deployed its radar-reflective parachute, ejected its warmth protect, and activated its radio beacon, signaling that it was wholesome and prepared for the awaiting search groups.

The groups situated and picked up the capsule after a short helicopter search, then transported it to a facility in Woomera for a “quick-look” inspection. The capsule and its contents will now head to Japan, for opening at a later date. The workforce confirmed that the container was correctly sealed.

“On behalf of everybody in Australia, congratulations to the complete workforce at JAXA on a beautiful achievement,” says Megan Clark (Australian Area Company) throughout a latest press convention. “I additionally congratulate the workforce in Australia and supply my deep admiration for the venture workforce in Japan.”

The pattern of pristine asteroid materials represents a glance again to the early photo voltaic system. The spacecraft collected the sample by firing a tantalum projectile at Ryugu’s floor, drawing ejected materials into the spacecraft’s feed horn. Then the mission obtained a second, sub-surface pattern utilizing the spacecraft’s Small-Carry-on Impactor.

Hayabusa 2 additionally deployed the first-ever asteroid rovers Rover 1A (HIBOU), Rover 1B (OWL), together with the MASCOT lander.

There’s no phrase but as to only how a lot materials Hayabusa 2 collected, as that exact weighing will await the pattern’s arrival in Japan in a while December seventh. The goal mass was 100 milligrams of fabric. JAXA has been offering updates on the pattern assortment on its website.

The pattern return will in the end be saved at JAXA’s Extraterrestrial Pattern Assortment Heart, together with the tiny shards of 25143 Itokawa collected by Hayabusa 1. These samples can be found for worldwide scientists by request.

Hayabusa 2: Prolonged Mission

After releasing the pattern, Hayabusa 2 carried out a brief correction maneuver to fly previous Earth. JAXA authorized an extended mission for the mission this previous September: The spacecraft will make a high-speed flyby of asteroid 2001 CC21 in 2026, then rendezvous with the 30-meter asteroid 1998 KY26 in 2031, after two extra Earth flybys in 2027 and 2028. On its means, Hayabusa 2 will conduct exoplanet and zodiacal gentle observations.

Hayabusa 2 nonetheless has one goal marker left and will contact down on 1998 KY26 on the finish of its mission.

Earth, as seen by Hayabusa 2 shortly after this weekend’s flyby

The prolonged mission will make Hayabusa 2 the primary to discover a fast-rotating asteroid — 1998 KY26 rotates on its axis as soon as each 10.7 minutes.

Pattern-return missions abound as of late: China’s Chang’e 5 mission will carry its lunar pattern again subsequent week, re-entering over Dorbod Banner in Inside Mongolia. NASA’s Osiris-REX mission may even return to Earth with lately collected samples of 101955 Bennu on September 24, 2023. And NASA and ESA have lately authorized a multi-piece plan to move forward with sample collections from Mars.

Congrats to JAXA, and the persevering with success of the Hayabusa 2 mission.


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