27 June 2018
The AP reports that JAXA’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at the Ryugu asteroid Wednesday after a three-and-a-half-year journey to “undertake a first-ever experiment: blow a crater in the rocky surface to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.” Over the next 18 months, the spacecraft will “attempt three brief touch-and-go landings to collect samples.” If the retrieval is successful, the samples may “provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.” Hayabusa2 will spend around two months searching for suitable landing sites, but because of the asteroid’s “high surface temperature, it will stay for only a few seconds each time it lands.” JAXA Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda wrote in an online post that large craters on the asteroid make the selection of landing points “both interesting and difficult.” The first touchdown is planned for between September and October, with a final touchdown scheduled for April or May. Before the final landing, “Hayabusa2 will send out a squat cylinder that will detonate above the asteroid, shooting a 2-kilogram (4.4-pound) copper projectile into it at high speed to make a crater.” After waiting several weeks for debris to clear, Hayabusa2 will then attempt to “land at or near the crater to collect underground material that was blown out of the crater, in addition to the surface material from the earlier touchdowns.” (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (Associated Press)
Full Story (Aerospace America, by Tom Risen)