Here’s the Asteroid Hayabusa2 is Going to be Visiting Next

The asteroid 1998 KY26 (the point of light located at where the two lines would cross) captured by Hyper Suprime-Cam mounted on the Subaru Telescope. The blurring of the background stars is due to the motion of the telescope tracking the asteroid. Five shots, each with a 2-minute exposure time, taken during 2:04–2:16 on December 10, 2020 (Hawai?i Standard Time) were stacked to create this image. The field of view is 30 x 15 arcseconds. (Credit: NAOJ)

Check out this image of asteroid 1998 KY26 from the Subaru Telescope. It’s not exactly beautiful, but it’s not intended to be. The compelling thing about this image isn’t its attractiveness, it’s the context. This small asteroid is the next target for Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

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Some of Hayabusa2’s Samples are as Big as a Centimeter

Soil Samples returned by the Hayabusa2 Spacecraft c. JAXA

A fireball hurtled across the sky on December 5th – the sample return capsule from the Hayabusa2 asteroid mission by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). The capsule landed in Woomera, a remote location in the Australian Outback. Earlier this month, the capsule’s sample containers revealed fine grain topsoil from asteroid 162173 Ryugu. A second sample container has since been opened that contains chunks up to an entire centimeter in size.

Soil Samples returned by the Hyabusa2 Spacecraft -c JAXA
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Even the Outside of Hayabusa 2’s Sample Capsule has Asteroid Debris on it

Hayabusa 2 artwork
An artist's conception shows Hayabusa 2's sample return capsule making its atmospheric re-entry as its mothership flies above. (JAXA Illustration)

On December 5th, 2020, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa 2 mission sent a sample capsule home containing debris from the near-Earth asteroid (NEA) 162173 Ryugu. This was the culmination of the probe’s first six years in space, which launched in Dec. 2014 and rendezvoused with Ryugu in June 2018. While the probe sets its sights on its new targets, scientists will be busy analyzing the Ryugu sample.

One thing they noticed immediately after opening the shell on Monday (Dec. 21st) was the black sandy dust that lined the capsule’s outer shell. According to a statement issued by JAXA, the black sand is material taken from the surface of Ryugu. Considering what’s inside sample chamber A, it appears that the amount of material obtained by Hayabusa 2 is more substantial than previously thought.

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Hayabusa2’s Mission isn’t Over. It has a New Asteroid Target to Visit: 1998 KY26

An illustration of the asteroid 1998 KY26. Hayabusa2's mission has been extended and it will rendezvous with this asteroid in 2031. Image Credits: Auburn University/JAXA

In an expected move, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced a mission extension for their Hayabusa2 spacecraft. Hayabusa2 will be sent to rendezvous with another asteroid in a few years time.

It’s target is 1998 KY26, a near-Earth object (NEO) less than a kilometer in diameter. But it’ll take a while and some maneuvering around other objects in the Solar System to reach its goal. JAXA says the spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid in July 2031.

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Spaceflight Stories Expected for 2020

Artist concept of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) on the left, and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (right). Credit: NASA

The year two thousand and twenty is almost upon us. And as always, space agencies and aerospace companies all around the world are preparing to spend the coming year accomplishing a long list of missions and developments. Between NASA, the ESA, China, SpaceX, and others, there are enough plans to impress even the most curmudgeonly of space enthusiasts.

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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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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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