Launched by Japan’s Space Agency, JAXA, the Hayabusa2 probe was sent the study the diamond-shaped Ryugu asteroid. After an initial survey, a landing site was selected as a landing was planned towards the end of October.
In a recent press announcement JAXA stated the landing has been delayed until January. According to the stamen, JAXA has analyzed data about the asteroid surface and it seems that it is more rugged than it was first thought, which means that the landing procedures will be more complicated.
The agency first believed that the landing zone surface will be smooth, but it seems that it is not as flat as the believed. The team is now working on a strategy that will allow them to land the probe without causing damage to any of its components.
Hayabusa2 has dispatched three smaller instruments on the asteroid’s surface. MASCOT, a small robot, reached the surface last week and it inspecting the surface for traces of minerals and other compounds. A pair of tiny rovers known as Minerva-II was launched in early September, and they landed safely due to the asteroid’s low gravity.
Hayabusa2 was launched in December 2014, following the success of the first Hayabusa initiative, which explored a similar asteroid a decade before. The first Hayabusa mission has improved our understanding of asteroids as it allows us to directly observe them. The probe also brought back valuable samples, which offered a wealth of information upon analysis. The success of the Hayabusa mission was pivotal for JAXA as it was the first preplanned probe that managed to land on an asteroid, and it had a tremendous influence on asteroid mission.
It took almost three and a half years for Hayabusa2 to reach its destination, as it followed a complicated path to the designated asteroid.
It remains to be seen how the mission will progress in the future but it is thought that Hayabusa2 may offer us valuable information about the Ryugu asteroid.
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