The Japanese Hayabusa2 has successfully completed his second touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu and has probably captured materials from his home that were exposed by shooting a shot at the asteroid earlier this year. This is the first collection of materials under the surface of a body of the solar system other than the moon.
Engineers and technicians in the control room of the spacecraft near Tokyo were cheered and applauded live on YouTube when project leader Yuichi Tsuda proclaimed the success of the operation just before 11 am local.
At a press briefing held in the afternoon, Tsuda said, "Everything went perfectly smoothly." He joked that if a score of 100 indicated perfection, "I would give him a score of 1000 ".
Hayabusa2 was launched in December 2014 by the Institute of Space and Astronautics Science of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, and reached Ryugu in June 2018.
Since then, he has made remote observations, released several rovers that jumped on the asteroid and performed a touchdown in February to recover surface samples. In April, Hayabusa2 launched a tiny spacecraft that exploded and sent a 2 kg non-explosive copper projectile into Ryugu, creating a crater. Subsequent remote examination of the site revealed that the materials ejected from the crater had accumulated about 20 meters apart.
This area became the target of the second touchdown, which occurred this morning. The engineers moved the spacecraft over the target site during the previous day and then placed it in autonomous mode. When the craft hit the ground, he fired a tantalum ball into the surface, probably throwing dust and rock fragments into a pickup horn. The gear is then mounted.
The team will not know for sure the content of the return capsule samples before returning to Earth in December 2020. "But we expect to have some samples below the surface," said project scientist Seiichiro Watanabe , scientist in planetary sciences at Nagoya University in Japan. They will be able to compare these subsurface samples with those collected on the surface. The team believes that comparison of surface samples subjected to weathering storms and cleaner indoor materials will give clues to the origins and evolution of the solar system.
Watanabe said NASA's current Origins, Spectrum Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security and Explorer mission also planned to bring back samples of an asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023. But, in the Near future, Japan The nation that will have acquired samples of both the surface and the interior of an asteroid, Watanabe said. The samples "will be of great scientific importance," he said.
Hayabusa2 will continue his remote observations until December 2020. "We should not even lose a single day," Tsuda said.