Japanese space probe takes underground samples from remote asteroid

Mindy Sparks
July 11, 2019

To get at these essential materials, in April an "impactor" was sacked from Hayabusa2 in the direction of Ryugu in a unsafe process that created a crater on the asteroid's surface and whips up materials that had not beforehand been exposed to the atmosphere.

JAXA Research Director Takashi Kubota speaks to journalists during a press conference following the Hayabusa2 probe's touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu, at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Sagamihara city, Kanagawa prefecture, July 11, 2019. Hayabusa2 should return to its landing site in Woomera, South Australia by the end of 2020, Before that, it will deploy the samples into Earth's atmosphere. It took Hayabusa2 15 minutes to descend 8.5 meters from the surface and then the final descent took place at 6:19 p.m PT and was confirmed as successful at 6:22 p.m PT by JAXA. According to mission staff, two of these compartments were believed to already have pieces of Ryugu, and following the second sample collection, they hope the third one will have some space rock material as well.

The actual landing was just a few seconds.

JAXA said the samples have been safely placed in a container, which will be moved to a capsule for secure storage.

"This is the second touchdown, but doing a touchdown is a challenge whether it's the first or the second", Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 project manager, told reporters ahead of the mission.

The Japanese probe, about the size of a large fridge, arrived at its observation position above the asteroid Ryugu in June 2018.

Japan's space agency, JAXA, shared images captured during touchdown on the mission's homepage.

If it makes it back to Earth on schedule it will be the first mission to bring back samples from a C-class asteroid, which hasn't been visited before.

If successful, it will be the second time it has landed on the desolate asteroid as part of a complex mission that has also involved sending rovers and robots.

Ryugu has a diameter of about 900 meters and is believed to contain more carbon than the Itokawa asteroid, leaving open the possibility that Ryugu holds organic substances. By analyzing them, the scientists would learn more about what forms asteroids and find out more information about the early days of our solar system.

Hayabusa2 has travelled around 4 billion km around the Sun in an elliptical orbit since its launch in December 2014.

The earlier probe returned with dust samples from a smaller, potato-shaped asteroid in 2010, despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey, and was hailed as a scientific triumph.

Back in April the space cannon the spacecraft is equipped with hit Ryugu with a copper bullet, exposing its innards.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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