Hayabusa2 ship is on the way “repatriation”, carrying valuable specimens collected from the asteroid Ryugu 4.5 billion years old.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft will return to the blue planet in the next 5 months. Photo: IFL Science.
The Australian Space Agency (ASA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on July 14 that the Hayabusa2 was about to return to Earth after years of operations in space. The ship is scheduled to land near the town of Woomera, South Australia, on December 6. JAXA is working with ASA to ensure safe ship pickup and retrieval.
JAXA’s Hayabusa2 launched into space in December 2014 and reached the asteroid Ryugu in June 2018. It began to leave the orbit of this 900-meter asteroid on November 13 last year. Currently, the ship is about 90 million km from Earth.
Hayabusa2 took three and a half years to reach Ryugu but the return journey would be much faster. Thanks to careful calculation of scientists, the return of the ship only took about a year. The reason is that Ryugu flew closer to Earth than it was in 2014.
Scientists hope the Hayabusa2 will provide more information on the early solar system. Asteroids are born at the same time, but do not undergo the same constant changes as planets. Therefore, analyzing them could yield new data about the Solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
Hayabusa2 is the second mission to collect samples from the second asteroid in history. Before that, the Hayabusa took a sample from the asteroid 25143 Itokawa and returned to Earth in 2010. The third mission was carried out by NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex. The ship is scheduled to collect specimens on the asteroid Bennu in October this year.
The Hayabusa2 mission marks the first time that an explorer robot has been dropped onto the asteroid surface and has successfully operated. The robot also sent back the first images taken from the surface of an asteroid.