Hyabusa-2 Sample Return Mission Successful
Illustration of Probe at Ryugu
0.1g of rock/dust samples returned from the asteroid
Images courtesy of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Hyabusa-2 probe in December 2014 by an H-IIA (H-2A) rocket from The Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) on the southeast coast of Tanegashima, an island approximately 40 kilometers (25 mi) south of Kyushu.
It's mission is to visit three asteroids that orbit the Sun between Earth and Mars and which are considered to be "Near-Earth Objects", i.e. that they are all bodies whose orbit at times intersects that of Earth's. All are located some 300 million kilometres (185 million miles) from Earth.
Rendezvousing with asteroid 162173 Ryugu in June 2018, the probe fired a sub surface "impactor" at the asteroid and then collected the dust and rock particles displaced. The material collected from the asteroid is believed to be unchanged since the time the universe was formed and scientists hope that it may contain the basic organic compounds necessary for life.
The Hyabusa-2 probe returned to Earth and in December 2020 released a sample return capsule from orbit which parachute landed near Woomera in South Australia.
Half the material will be shared between JAXA, the US space agency NASA and other international organisations with the rest kept for future study.
Hyabusa-2 will now make sling shot orbits of Earth and the Sun to return to the space between Earth and Mars to visit two further Near-Earth asteroids (although through lack of fuel it is not expected that any further samples will be taken from these).
Asteroid 2001 AV43 will be the next target in November 2029 with the water rich asteroid 1998 KY26 the third and final target of Hayabusa-2's extended mission, arriving in July 2031.
Stone Museum of Geology congratulates JAXA on this incredible achievement and wishes them every success with the rest of this historic mission.