It contains valuable cargo from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu
Scientists are preparing to greet the return of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft in the desert city of Woomera in the desert of South Australia. Hayabusa2 will land on December 6, 2020 after six years of space exploration.
The spaceship carries a special and rare cargo – at least 100 milligrams of material recovered from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. It will drop the capsule with the charge to Earth and explore other asteroids.
A big step forward
This will be an important milestone in space exploration as the Hayabusa2 has traveled approximately 5.24 billion kilometers. The asteroid Ryugu, previously known as JU3 from 1999, is in an elliptical orbit and is right within Earth orbit around the Sun.
To mark the spacecraft’s journey, it was necessary to calculate the future location of the asteroid and map a path that would allow it to get there safely using Earth’s gravity as its accelerating medium. After that, Hayabusa2 had to touch down twice and collect the materials on both landings before returning to where the earth would be.
The team has arrived in Australia and various samples and tests are being carried out to remove the capsule. Preliminary team members who had already completed their two-week COVID-19 quarantine reached the Woomera Royal Australian Air Force base last week and prepared to land.
This cargo is of the utmost importance as the original Hayabusa mission, which JAXA conducted in 2010, had a sampling error and was only able to procure a few milligrams of material. Ryugu is a primitive carbonaceous asteroid, so it will contain pristine material that has been around since its formation about 4.5 billion years ago.
(Cover picture: JAXA, University of Tokyo)