The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is eager to have their Hayabusa-2 spacecraft land the first robot on the surface of the diamond-shaped asteroid Ryugu. The asteroid is 300 million-kilometers (186.4 million-miles) away from our planet.
Hayabusa-2 is close to the asteroid, orbiting it and preparing to land the robot. The landing will take place in less than a month – on 21 September.
The spacecraft took three and a half years to reach the asteroid, and in June it finally got close to it.
Once the spacecraft lands the first lander to gather samples and conduct some experiments, on October 3 it will launch a second lander. At one stage in the mission, the spacecraft will also land on the asteroid after it will blow a small crater to gather samples from under the surface of the asteroid, rocks that were not exposed too long to space.
If everything goes according to plant, JAXA said that they will have the “world’s first sample return mission to a C-type asteroid.”
Meanwhile, the US agency NASA also has a sample retrieval mission, but it will return to Earth in 2023. Hayabusa-2 should get back in 2020.
Why Are Asteroid Samples So Important?
JAXA explains that asteroids could be the answer to many questions on the formation of our solar system:
“By exploring a C-type asteroid, which is rich in water and organic materials, we will clarify interactions between the building blocks of Earth and the evolution of its oceans and life, thereby developing solar system science.”
The diamond-shaped asteroid was a surprise for scientists who initially saw it round from a distance. The space agency said in a statement that the beautiful shape of a fluorite “known as the ‘firefly stone’ in Japanese,” was surprising but also challenging because it would make landing very difficult.
The agency concluded that getting close to the asteroid was also a feat:
“In other words, arriving at Ryugu is the same as aiming at a 6-centimeter target in Brazil from Japan.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere