Moment after landing on asteroid Ryugu captured Japan's Hayabusa 2 this view of the landing zone from a distance of about 30 meters, showing the probe's shadow and markings left on the surface, probably from the spacecraft's fuel jets to begin its ascent. Credit: JAXA Japan's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft landed briefly on an asteroid Thursday more than 200 million miles from Earth and fired a bullet to boast a rocky sample that successfully completed one of the mission's most challenging maneuvers before returning the asteroid test to researchers at the ground in December 2020.The space boat linged on Ryugu's surface for a few moments before they launched the thruster to climb the asteroid. Hayabusa 2's land team in Sagamihara, Japan, celebrated as radio signals radiated back from the probe indicated that the maneuver went off without a hitch, pleasing engineers who carefully planned ̵ 1; then re-planned – the spacecraft landing.  "Mankind's hand has reached a new star today," said Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2's project manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, through a translator. "JAXA was successful in the operation (and) touchdown of Hayabusa 2 in Ryugu and sample collection from Ryugu." Drift independently, Hayabusa 2 pulled down towards Ryugu at the glacial rate, Thursday and hit its expected elevation and speed marks before contacting the surface at 2229 GMT (05:29 EST). Nineteen minutes later, a shift in the signal from Hayabusa 2 showed that it reached the surface and began its ascent, which led to…
Moment after landing on asteroid Ryugu captured Japan’s Hayabusa 2 this view of the landing zone from a distance of about 30 meters, showing the probe’s shadow and markings left on the surface, probably from the spacecraft’s fuel jets to begin its ascent. Credit: JAXA
Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft landed briefly on an asteroid Thursday more than 200 million miles from Earth and fired a bullet to boast a rocky sample that successfully completed one of the mission’s most challenging maneuvers before returning the asteroid test to researchers at the ground in December 2020.
The space boat linged on Ryugu’s surface for a few moments before they launched the thruster to climb the asteroid. Hayabusa 2’s land team in Sagamihara, Japan, celebrated as radio signals radiated back from the probe indicated that the maneuver went off without a hitch, pleasing engineers who carefully planned ̵
1; then re-planned – the spacecraft landing.  “Mankind’s hand has reached a new star today,” said Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2’s project manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, through a translator. “JAXA was successful in the operation (and) touchdown of Hayabusa 2 in Ryugu and sample collection from Ryugu.”
Drift independently, Hayabusa 2 pulled down towards Ryugu at the glacial rate, Thursday and hit its expected elevation and speed marks before contacting the surface at 2229 GMT (05:29 EST). Nineteen minutes later, a shift in the signal from Hayabusa 2 showed that it reached the surface and began its ascent, which led to applause from abrasive scientists in the control room.
The probe’s navigation system autonomously tracked the location of a target marker used on the surface of the asteroid, allowing Hayabusa 2 to fire its control beams and steer the ship against a tight landing zone surrounded by dangerous rocks.
Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2’s project manager, shows a space at the height of the spacecraft during his departure from asteroid Ryugu during a press conference after touch-and-go maneuvering on Thursday. Credit: JAXA
At a press conference a few hours later, missionary officials from the JAXA confirmed the spacecraft that was performed flawlessly during landing and landing.
Telemetry from Hayabusa 2 showed a temperature increase in the compartment which holds 0.2 ounces (5 grams) of tantalum projectile that shot into the asteroid. The probe uses explosives to fire the ball and the mission managers said the temperature rise indicated that the unit was operating as intended.
The projectile would fire when a trial horn extending from Hayabusa 2 touched Ryuguan’s surface. Rock and powder blown away by the impact of the projectile were expected to step through the sample horn in one of three chambers inside the spacecraft’s return capsule, which will bring the samples back to Earth by 2020.
“After confirming the data transmitted from Hayabusa 2, we was able to confirm that Hayabusa 2’s touchdown sequence, including projectile shooting to collect samples, was conducted and Hayabusa 2’s status is normal, “Tsuda said at a press conference at Sagamihara Control Center.  Officials planning to seal the chamber containing the samples from Thursday’s landing, ensuring that the material remains uncontaminated during the trip back to earth.
Hayabusa 2 is Japan’s second mission to collect samples from an asteroid for return to Earth.
A predecessor sent Hayabusa flew to the asteroid Itokawa, but only collected microscopic specimens from the object after running into many problems, including a disturbance in its own projectile firing system, a fuel leak and reaction wheel failure. Hayabusa, meaning “peregrine falcon” in Japanese, returned the small asteroid material it was collected to earth in June 2010.
Hayabusa 2’s optical navigation camera took this perception of asteroid Ryugu from a distance of 6 kilometers July 20, 2018. Credit: JAXA
Ryugu is shaped like a spinning top with an average diameter of nearly 3000 meters. Its gravity field is thousands of times weaker than the Earth, which makes Hayabusa 2 able to fly around the asteroid with minimal fuel.
Researchers classify Ryugu as a C-type asteroid, meaning it is rich in carbon, the basic building block of organic molecules. Researchers are keen to get pristina samples of the asteroid to analyze in laboratories and look for clues about the origin of water and life on earth.
The name of a dragon’s palace in a famous Japanese fairy tale completes the asteroid Ryugu a circle of the sun every 1.3 years. Its path shortly leads it into the Earth’s orbit, making Ryugu a potentially dangerous asteroid.
While Hayabusa 2 is exploring Ryugu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft maps another asteroid called Bennu – ahead of its own sampling attempt next year. Like Ryugu, Bennu is a colder asteroid that regularly traverses the Earth’s orbit.
OSIRIS-REX will take home at least 60 grams, or 2.1 grams of samples from Bennu by 2023, while Hayabusa 2 could return to Earth with at least 100 milligrams of asteroid material. Scientists are hopeful, both missions will come back with much more.
Tsuda said engineers were not immediately sure how much sample Hayabusa 2 gathered on Thursday. But officials are convinced that the projectile was working as expected, and Tsuda said he had the highest expectation that Hayabusa 2 spun a “decent amount of sample.”
Teams from Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS REX missions are collaborating in their asteroid exploration efforts. JAXA and NASA have agreed to split asteroid samples to Earth by Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS-REx, and three US researchers at the OSIRIS-REx team are assigned as co-researchers on the Japanese mission. In return, three Japanese researchers participated formally in the OSIRIS-REx team.
Hayabusa 2’s ground layer is a picture after Thursday’s touch-and-go landing on asteroid Ryugu. Credit: JAXA
Hayabusa 2 launched on a Japanese H-2A rocket on December 3, 2014 and backed its asteroid target with ion engines, which arrived in Ryugu vicinity in June.
The spacecraft dropped a couple of Japanese robots to jump over Ryugu’s surface in September, then released a European mobile scooter that landed on the asteroid in October. The miniature fields became the first mobile vehicle to explore the surface of an asteroid. All three robots returned images and scientific data.
The mission consultant hoped to take the first test with Hayabusa 2 in late October, but officials postponed the descent to complete further analyzes and investigations after the spacecraft found the asteroid is more rocky and robust than expected. Managers decided to deploy a target marker on their preferred landing site for Hayabusa 2’s first sampling attempt, which helped the spacecraft navigate a narrow corridor to safely reach a rock-free site, which could pose a threat to the mission.
“Ryugu turned out to be harder than we expected, so we decided to distribute all kinds of technology available,” says Tsuda.
Hayabusa 2 may try to collect two more samples from other places at Ryugu before They depart the asteroid in November or December, and the spacecraft must begin its journey back to Earth at the end of the year to return home in December 2020, when Hayabusa 2 releases a test carrier to reproduce the atmosphere and parachute to a landing in Australia.
Tsuda aims to end Hayabusa 2’s critical operations at the asteroid in June or July, when Ryugu makes his wardrobe approaching the sun in his 1.3-year course.
Artist’s concept of the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft at asteroid Ryugu showing the probe’s sampling horn in contact with the surface Credit: JAXA / Akihiro Ikeshita
At one of the sampling maneuvers, Hayabusa 2 Will will fire a copper plate – 400 gallons is more massive than the tantalum bullet used on Thursday – to cut out a crater on the asteroid, so that the spacecraft can be snagged from under Ryugy’s surface. The underground sample can be valuable for researchers as the material has not been exposed to particles and radiation that bomb the asteroid surface.
“We need to investigate what to do about the two touchdowns that are still planned,” Tsuda said. .
“At the present time, we cannot formulate a schedule,” Tsuda said. “We do not want to remain idle for a month. It is not our plan. The state (spacecraft) is such that it is in top form. Perhaps every two weeks or three weeks there are critical operations that we want to do.”
Takanao Saiki, Hayabusa 2’s project engineer and air traffic controller said the release of the copper pipe to create a crater on Ryugu will be one of the main highlights of the mission.
“Just as big as the touchdown operation, and it’s pretty risky,” said Saiki on Thursday. “Honestly (impactor) is really a challenge, but all team members have used their brains in the touchdown operation until today … We would like to celebrate the success today, but from tomorrow we want to start preparing for (bumper).” 19659034] “This has intensified our speed, but we must remain cautious,” Saiki said.
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