Hayabusa 2 Mission: All you need to know about Japan's asteroid mission
Why in News?
It has been six years since the mission Hayabusa 2's launching and it would be soon returning after covering 6 billion kilometres to earth. The Japanese aircraft would drop a capsule onto the Australian outback anytime now. It is carrying asteroid fragments that would help scientists gain knowledge of the solar system. The capsule would touch down the earth surface on December 6, 2020.
About the project:
- Mission Hayabusa-2 is an asteroid sample-return mission that has been launched by the Japanese space agency, JAXA.
- It was a follow-up mission of Hayabusa 1 that collected asteroid samples in 2010 and returned to earth.
- Hayabusa-2 was launched on 3 December 2014 and was targeted for near-Earth asteroid Ryugu. It met with it on 27 June 2018.
- Hayabusa 2 blew itself a crater on the asteroid by dropping explosives on it and collected samples only to return to earth on December 6, 2020.
- The unmanned craft will release the capsule from a height of about 220,000km (136,700 miles), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said. Also read| China's spacecraft that reached the lunar surface
Critical Mission Accomplished
Out of various critical stages of the mission, one of them was from February last year, when the spacecraft landed briefly on Ryugu and fired a tiny tantalum pellet at the asteroid’s surface to kick up dust for collection. It then blasted back to its holding position.
After five months passed, it achieved a world-first feat when it landed for the second time to collect dislocated broken pieces of rocks and soil from beneath the surface of the 4.6 billion-year-old asteroid.
Hayabusa 1 Mission
The mission commenced in May 2003 and was the first-ever space capsule to land and take off from an asteroid. It returned from Asteroid Itokawa 25143 on June 13, 2010, after collecting samples from there.
As explained by Japan's space agency, it was accelerated by a swing-by of the Earth in May 2004 and reached its target Asteroid Itokawa on September 12, 2005, after travelling about 2 billion kilometres, in September and October that year, HAYABUSA 1 completed the most remote-sensing and measurement of the geometry of Itokawa and made two landings in November to collect a sample from Itokawa.
Scientific Observations from Hayabusa 1
Four observation instruments from altitudes of 20 km to 3 km observed Itokawa’s shape, terrain, surface altitude distribution, reflectance, spectrum, mineral composition, gravity, major element composition, etc. The observations provided scientists with more fresh information to study the asteroid formation process. By revealing the detailed figure of the most common small asteroids, we acquired important guidelines for future explorations of all types of asteroids. Know more about Hyabusa 1 here.