Japan’s space agency announced that its Hayabusa2 spacecraft will follow up last month’s touchdown on a distant asteroid with another risky mission – dropping an explosive on the asteroid to make a crater and then collect underground samples for possible clues to the origin of the solar system.
Background: Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” is a successor of Hayabusa which brought back samples from the asteroid “Itokawa” in 2005. The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter and about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth.
- The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced Hayabusa2 will drop an impactor the size of a baseball weighing 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) on the asteroid to collect samples from deeper underground that have not been exposed to the sun or space rays.
- It will drop a cone-shaped piece of equipment containing explosives that will blast off a copper plate on its bottom & will turn into a ball and slam into the asteroid at 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) per second.
- While moving away, Hayabusa2 will leave a camera to capture the outcome. The spacecraft is to wait a few weeks before returning to the area above the crater for observations.
- MINERVA-II1 (MIcro Nano Experimental Robot Vehicle for Asteroid, the second generation): It consists of two rovers which have landed on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. It is the world‟s first rover to land on the surface of an asteroid. It is, therefore „the world‟s first man-made object to explore movement on an asteroid surface.
- MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout): It was developed by DLP & CNES and it also landed on the asteroid surface to study it.
Ryugu is a C-type asteroid – a relic from the early days of the Solar System. Scientists think that C-type asteroids contain both organic matter, and trapped water, and might have been responsible for bringing both to Earth, thereby providing the planet with the materials necessary for life to originate.