Hayabusa 2 Has Sent its Last Rover to Ryugu

Artist's impression of the Hayabusa2 taking samples from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita/JAXA

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 mission to asteroid Ryugu has reached one of its final milestones, if not its climax. The sample-return spacecraft has launched the Minerva-II2 rover at the asteroid. This is the last of four rovers that Hayabusa 2 is deploying on Ryugu.

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Hayabusa 2 has one Last Lander it’s Going to Throw at Ryugu

Credit: JAXA

On June 27th, 2018, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft reached asteroid 162173 Ryugu. As part of JAXA’s program to study Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs), this mission has spent over a year conducting landing operations, shooting up the surface with “bullets” and an anti-tank warhead, and collecting samples from the surface and interior that will eventually be returned to Earth.

This past Monday (Sept. 16th), Hayabusa2 released two target markers as part of its “target marker separation operation” (which ran from Sept. 12th to Sept. 17th). This consisted of two 10 cm (4 in) balls covered in reflective material being released in orbit around Ryugu. This operation puts the mission a step closer to the deployment of the mission’s MINERVA-II2 Rover-2, which will be landing on the asteroid’s surface next month.

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Asteroid Ryugu is a “Fragile Rubble Pile”

The MASCam team behind the MASCOT rover's camera identified two types of rock on Ryugu: Type 1 are dark, irregularly-shaped boulders with crumpled, cauliflower-like surfaces. Type 2 are brighter, with sharp edges, and smooth, fractured surfaces. Image Credit: MASCOT/DLR/JAXA

When Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft arrived at asteroid Ryugu in June 2018, it carried four small rovers with it. Hayabusa 2 is primarily a sample-return mission, but JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) sent rovers along to explore the asteroid’s surface and learn as much as they could from their visit. There’s also no guarantee that the sample return will be successful.

They chose Ryugu because the asteroid is classified as a primitive carbonaceous asteroid. This type of asteroid is a desirable target because it represents the primordial matter that formed the bodies in our Solar System. It’s also pretty close to Earth.

The sample from Ryugu, which will make it to Earth in December 2020, is the big science prize from this mission. Analyzing it in Earth-based laboratories will tell us a lot more than spacecraft instruments can. But the rovers that landed on Ryugu’s surface have already revealed a lot about Ryugu.

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Watch this Amazing Video of Hayabusa 2 Picking Up a Sample from the Surface of Ryugu

A screen shot from JAXA's video showing Hayabusa 2's second sample grabbing touchdown. Image Credit: JAXA

A new video shows Japan’s Hayabusa 2 sample return spacecraft collecting samples from asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft has been at Ryugu for months now, and it’s all been leading up to this. In the video, you can clearly see airborne asteroid dust and particles swirling around in the low gravity.

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Toyota is Building a Pressurized Lunar Rover for Japan

An artist's illustration of a pressurized lunar vehicle. Image Credit: JAXA/Toyota

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is teaming up with the nation’s largest company to build a lunar rover. Toyota, the second largest automobile company in the world (only Volkswagen makes more cars) has signed a development deal with JAXA that will last three years. The goal? To design, build, test and evaluate prototypes for a pressurized, crewed lunar vehicle that runs on fuel-cells.

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Hayabusa 2 is the First Spacecraft to Sample the Inside of an Asteroid

Hayabusa 2 has collected a sub-surface sample from asteroid Ryugu. Image: JAXA

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is now the first spacecraft to retrieve a subsurface sample from an asteroid. On July 11th, the spacecraft touched down for a second time on asteroid 162173 Ryugu. This time, the probe retrieved a sample from a crater it excavated with its impactor.

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The Japanese asteroid-hunter had another photo opportunity when it dropped a target marker on asteroid Ryugu

Image taken with Hayabusa2's CAM-H instrument on May 30th, 2019. Credit: JAXA

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s (JAXA) has made some impressive feats in recent years. Roughly one year ago, and following in the footsteps of its predecessor, their Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully rendezvoused with a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) – 162173 Ryugu. Since then, it has been collecting samples from the surface in the hopes of learning more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System.

Just a few months after the spacecraft created an artificial crater with an anti-tank warhead, the spacecraft has once again descended close to the asteroid to drop another target marker. This maker, a reflective sphere that contains the names of people who’ve supported the mission, will provide a visual guide as the spacecraft attempts to collect its second sample of material from the asteroid’s surface.

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Hayabusa1’s Samples of Itokawa Turned up Water That’s Very Similar to Earth’s Oceans

Detailed view of the likely contact binary asteroid 25143 Itokawa visited by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa in 2005. Credit: JAXA

Right now, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s (JAXA)
Hayabusa2 spacecraft is busy exploring the asteroid 162173 Ryugu. Like it’s predecessor, this consists of a sample-return mission, where regolith from the asteroid’s surface will be brought back home for analysis. In addition to telling us more about the early Solar System, these studies are expected to shed light on the origin of Earth’s water (and maybe even life).

Meanwhile, scientists here at home have been busy examining the samples returned from 25143 Itokawa by the Hayabusa1 spacecraft. Thanks to a recent study by a pair of cosmochemists from Arizona State University (ASU), it is now known that this asteroid contained abundant amounts of water. From this, the team estimates that up to half the water on Earth could have come from asteroid and comet impacts billions of years ago.

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Here’s the Video of Hayabusa2 Bombing Asteroid Ryugu

Artist's impression of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft touching down on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. Credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita?

As part of its mission to explore the Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA)
162173 Ryugu, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft recently dropped a “bomb” on the asteroid’s surface. This explosive package, known as the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), was specifically designed to create a crater in the surface, thus exposing the interior for analysis.

The deployment of the SCI took place on April 5th, exactly six weeks after the spacecraft collected its first sample from the surface. Last Sunday, (April 21st, 2019), JAXA provided the video of the “bombing run” via the mission’s official twitter account. This was followed four days later by images of the crater that resulted, which revealed darker material from the interior that was now exposed to space.

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Hayabusa2 Fires an Anti-Tank Warhead at Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu, as imaged by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The red dot marks the sampling location. Image Credit: JAXA/Hayabusa2
Asteroid Ryugu, as imaged by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The red dot marks the sampling location. Image Credit: JAXA/Hayabusa2

Last week, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s (JAXA) dropped an explosive warhead on the surface of asteroid 162173 Ryugu. You might think this was the opening line of an entirely-readable science fiction novel, but it’s totally true. The operation began on April 4th, when the Hayabusa2 spacecraft sent its Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) down to Ryugu’s surface and then detonated it to create a crater.

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