After Collecting Samples from Asteroid Japanese Probe Preparing to Return
Science

After Collecting Samples from Asteroid Japanese Probe Preparing to Return

A successful touchdown onto the surface of Ryugu, Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe is packing its valuable cargo because it prepares to carry samples of the asteroid back to Earth.

Hayabusa2 carried out two touchdowns after arriving on the asteroid in June 2018. The first, on February 21, 2019, was prepared to collect samples direct from Ryugu’s surface, and the second, on July 11, 2019, was performed to collect materials from deeper within the asteroid. With the two touchdowns now within the history books, JAXA mission planners are now shifting to the return phase.

The space agency announced in social media, Photographic and video evidence of each encounter suggests the efforts to gather materials were successful. However, the agency does not know for sure until the probe delivers its sample canisters to Earth in late 2020.

Hayabusa2 yet has some work to do around Ryugu. However, JAXA is preparing the probe for its 300-million-kilometer journey home. On Monday, JAXA carried a successful method in which the pattern chamber was placed contained in the probe’s re-entry capsule, as the previous Hayabusa mission in 2010, in which each the probe and the capsule re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, the present mission will have only the capsule survive atmospheric re-entry. Hayabusa2 is expected to remain in space and possibly engage in a future mission.

JAXA has currently required permission from the Australian government to use its territory for the landing of the re-entry capsule. The Japanese space agency is presently targeting the restricted Woomera territory, which requires special access permissions from Australia, along with an approval to construct an antenna station for tracking the descent of the jettisoned re-entry capsule. JAXA is within the midst of getting ready the required documentation, including collecting and safety plans. The specific date and the accurate landing area inside the Woomera Prohibited Area are still to be decided.

Before any of this occurs, however, Hayabusa2 still has a significant task to perform, particularly the deployment of the MINERVA-II2 lander. Earlier within the mission, the probe used the two landers that involved MINERVA-II1, which directed to some spectacular close-up views of the asteroid’s surface. A trial run of the deployment will be carried out on September 5, 2019, with further details about the mission to return later in the month.