Japan Delays Spacecraft Landing On Asteroid Ryugu Surface

Posted: Oct 14 2018, 7:26am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 14 2018, 7:29am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Japan Delays Spacecraft Landing on Asteroid Ryugu Surface
This Oct. 3, 2018 image taken at an altitude of about 25 meter by MASCOT lander's camera. Credit: MASCOT, DLR, JAXA

The surface of the asteroid is more rugged than scientists initially thought.

Japan's space agency has announced a delay in Hayabusa2 spacecraft’s touchdown on asteroid Ryugu's surface. The surface of asteroid Ryugu is extremely rocky, which makes it difficult for spacecraft to land safely.

Hayabusa2 spacecraft is now expected to land on Ryugu asteroid in late January and not at the end of this month as initially planned. The delay would give researchers time to find a safe landing site on Ryugu.

“The mission... is to land without hitting rocks,” said Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). “We had expected the surface would be smooth... but it seems there's no flat area.”

Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft was launched in December 2014 and traveled 280 million kilometers to reach Ryugu’s orbit in June this year. The mission will spend almost two years studying the asteroid’s surface.

On September 21, Hayabusa2 released a pair of robotic rovers towards the asteroid Ryugu. It was the first time that moving rovers successfully landed on the surface of an asteroid. The micro-rovers are equipped with a 'hopper' mechanism that will allow them to jump around the asteroid’s rugged terrain and explore multiple locations.

Few days later, the mission also dropped the Mascot lander, developed by the DLR German Aerospace Center in cooperation with France's CNES space agency. Loaded with sensors, the box-shaped lander can take images at multiple wavelengths, investigate minerals and measure surface temperatures and magnetic fields.

Hayabusa2 will also use explosives to fire a copper impactor into the surface and excavate a crater. From this crater, the probe will collect materials unexposed to millennia of wind and radiation and return to Earth with pristine asteroid samples in 2020. Researchers say that these asteroid samples may contain organic compounds and their analysis could help answer some fundamental questions about life and universe.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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