Monday , August 2 2021

Hayabusa 2: During a flyby, a space probe drops asteroid seeds to the ground

economy Hayabusa 2

As it flies by, the spaceship drops the asteroid seeds above the ground

| Reading time: 3 minutes

Gerhard Hegmann


Hayabusa 2 samples land in South Australia


In one of the most complex space missions in Japanese history, it was able to collect soil samples from an asteroid as it flies past the Earth – and land safely on Earth. The mission was a great success for the Japanese aviation industry.

downhina has just drilled to the moon and is throwing soil samples onto the ground. But Japan is now taking a technically at least as demanding step. During one of the most complex space missions in history, it was possible to take soil samples from an asteroid flying above the Earth and after traveling 5.25 billion kilometers, throw them into a small land capsule above the ground.

During the Hayabusa 2 mission in the German Peregrine Falcon 2, the mini-sample capsule landed in Australia – while the main satellite is flying to the next asteroid. It should get there in 2031. The Japanese space agency Jaxa hopes that 100 milligrams of the first encounter with an asteroid about 900 meters in diameter will reach Earth.

First, Jaxa confirmed that a parachute from the landing capsule, approximately 40 cm in size, was automatically activated. This has already been considered a huge success. As it was a deep night when they landed on site in Australia, finding valuable cargo from the universe was initially delayed. But then a message came from Jaxa: “We found a pod,” including a parachute. The samples are intended to provide information about the formation of space and its planets. Scientists also want to find out if the building blocks of life could have come to Earth today through asteroids.


The members of the Hayabusa 2 team celebrate the success of their mission


For the Japanese space industry, the Hayabusa 2 mission is proof of its efficiency, knowledge of robotics and space orbit physics, as objects move at incredible speeds.

Almost exactly six years ago, an H-IIA rocket built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries took off on a mission, initially visiting the asteroid Ruyugu. It was discovered about 20 years ago as an asteroid in low Earth orbit. Space is constantly searched to see if Earth is threatened by large approaching objects. The Japanese regularly send rockets with cargo capsules to the International Space Station, most recently in late November. So you have a lot of experience in space travel.

Cost: 123 million euros

The Hayabusa 2 mission, which costs the equivalent of € 123 million, aims to provide further information on planet formation. The design is extremely complex. In 2010, the previous Hayabusa 1 mission brought 1,500 asteroid grains to Earth, which was already the first Japanese success. But Hayabusa 2 is more technically demanding. The Japanese are not alone with asteroid missions: in 2016, the US space agency NASA launched the Osiris-Rex mission to bring over 60 grams from the asteroid to Earth in 2023.

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One of the peculiarities of the Hayabusa 2 mission is that the samples were tossed into a landing capsule and have just fallen into Australia. The actual satellite will remain in space and will be heading for an asteroid only 40 meters in size by 2031.

Germany and its research organization DLR (German Aerospace Center) are involved in the Hayabusa 2 mission. In addition to France, the DLR was involved in the development of a small amphibious vehicle (mascot) weighing just under ten kilograms on an asteroid. There were also separate little jumping rovers. In February and July 2019, the spacecraft collected material from the Ryugu asteroid during two unusual maneuvers. Scientists talk about fragments from four and a half billion years ago from the earliest times of the solar system.

Japanese probe

Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2 flies towards Earth (graphic representation)

Source: dpa / –

From the middle of next year, DLR researchers will be able to collect material from a capsule that landed in Australia, Japan, and transport it to Germany for their own research. The DLR Planetary Research Institute in Berlin-Adlershof is currently setting up a new research laboratory focusing on special analyzes. On the other hand, it is unclear whether DLR researchers will receive lunar rocks from the Chinese for their current lunar mission.

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