Japanese space agency JAXA is preparing the next part of itsWednesday evening.
The spacecraft has already made a brief hit on the big rock of space, then fired a copper projectile earlier this year to create an artificial crater on the surface of the asteroid. Then, the spacecraft will lower again to touch Ryugu a second time in order to collect some of the materials under the surface exposed by the explosion creating a crater.
Think of it as an extremely small-scale extraction of asteroids extremely complicated.
As asteroids such as Ryugu are sort of time capsules from the formation of the solar system, scientists hope that these samples will provide new information on the history of our corner of the cosmos. "This will be the world's first collection of samples from several locations and the first sample under the surface" of an asteroid, reads a blog post from the mission team.
Hayabusa2 is equipped with a system that shoots a small bullet on the surface of the asteroid very closely, lifting up the dust and debris that is then collected via a sample collection chamber in shape of horn.
The JAXA expressed some uncertainty as to whether the risks associated with attempting a second hit on the rough surface and dotted with Ryugu Blocks are offset by the scientific value of capturing this historic sample. There is also the problem of dust raised by the first touch that stuck to a navigation camera and left less light.
But after further analysis, the team determined that the risks associated with a second hit were lower or equal to those of the first such operation. It is scheduled for Thursday, Japan time.
Hayabusa2's contact with Ryugu is expected around 7 pm PT Wednesday. The JAXA will be live from its mission control approximately 90 minutes before, at 5.30 pm PT, and you can come back to look here via the integration below.
NASA is currently running its own asteroid tagging mission, Osiris-Rex, currently underway..
Originally released on July 9th.