Today, on September 12th, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2 approached only 600 meters above the Ryugu asteroid’s surface for a landing test, after which it ascended once again.
The test was intended to reach a height of only 30 meters, an objective that was not attainable at the moment because the laser altimeter, LIDAR, failed to correctly calculate the distance between the spacecraft and the surface of the asteroid. A possible reason for this measurement failure could be the relatively limited reflectivity of Ryugu’s surface, JAXA informed.
The spacecraft, however, whose assignment it is to fetch samples from the space rock to Earth, is in a “healthy” condition and is now resuming its original location, at a distance of approximately 20 kilometers away from the asteroid center. Next, the JAXA mission control plans to revise the landing routine, as well as a review of the LIDAR setup.
Landing on asteroid Ryugu will be challenging for Hayabusa-2
The survey of the surface of asteroid Ryugu has so far disclosed that the space rock, with a lot of boulders dotting its ground, does not provide an optimal location that is sufficiently plain and roomy for Hayabusa-2 to be landed.
For the spacecraft to safely land, the potential landing locations must have no obstructions, such as boulders measuring more than 50 centimeters in height and 100 meters in width.
At the moment, Hayabusa 2 is nearly 300 million kilometers away from Earth, and a bidirectional communication from the base to the spacecraft takes around 35 minutes to reach. So, sending commands to prevent any hazards when the probe commences its landing procedures could not be useful due to this delay.
Hayabusa-2 is not the only spaceship to take a sample of an asteroid as, since yesterday, the NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid-sampling mission commenced its mission on asteroid Bennu on which it will lend in late-December.