The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2, which approached Ryugu asteroid as early as last August, has now determined the ideal landing site, about 200 meters from it’s equator. The maneuver should take place in a few days time.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has just announced that the Hayabusa2 probe will touch down on the Ryugu asteroid on the 22 February around 1 pm (British time). “The landing area has been decided and the way we are going to land has been confirmed,” declared Yuichi Tsuda, one of the leaders of the mission. “We would like to land as best as we can and succeed without any errors.” The landing, which was initially planned for last October, was delayed by several months as the surface of the asteroid was more uneven than expected.
-97 °C on the surface
JAXA have therefore taken the time needed to carried out it’s mission as best it can. Landing on a rock that is hardly 3 km wide is no easy affair especially when it is more than 150 million kilometres from Earth! You certainly don’t want to rush the job. If everything goes as planned, the Hayabusa2 probe which is about the size of a fridge, should be able to collect a few samples from the object with the aim of taking them back to Earth in 2020.
The landing site called L08 which is outlined in pink below is located about 200 metres from the equator of Ryugu with a slight slope less than 30°. Temperatures on the surface of the asteroid are close to -97°C and each rock measures less than 50 cm in diameter. The terrain here seems to be less uneven than elsewhere. The location has also been chosen as from here the probe’s solar panels are able to collect the maximum amount of energy from our sun.
Shed a light on our origins
Just like NASA’s OSIRIS-REX probe which is orbiting around the Bennu asteroid, the aim of the mission is to try an answer certain fundamental questions about the origin of our solar system. Scientists are hopping that collected soil samples will help to shed light on these unanswered questions which will perhaps give us more of an understanding about the origins of life on Earth.
It is believed that asteroids have played an important role in forming life on our planet. After impacting the Earth’s surface, they are believed to have deposited water and organic matter. New analysis of asteroid dust could confirm or rule out this theory and allow us to evaluate to what extent asteroids could have played a role.