<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=769125799912420&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">
About Our People Legal Stuff Careers
Japan Space Probe
This computer graphics image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 landing on a crater that it made. The Japanese space explorer that will try to blow a crater in an asteroid and bring back samples from inside is nearing its destination after a 3 1/2 -year journey. The unmanned Hayabusa2 has arrived at the asteroid Wednesday, June 27, 2018, about 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth. (JAXA via AP)

Japanese space probe arrives at asteroid to collect samples

Actions

0

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese space probe arrived at an asteroid Wednesday after a 3 1/2-year journey to undertake a first-ever experiment: blow a crater in the rocky surface to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

Japan Space Probe
This image taken on June 24, 2018 and provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows asteroid of Ryugu that asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 was expected to reach as its target. The image was taken in the distance of about 40 kilometers (25 miles) between the explorer and the asteroid. The Japanese space explorer that will try to blow a crater in an asteroid and bring back samples from inside is nearing its destination after a 3 1/2 -year journey. The unmanned Hayabusa2 has arrived at the asteroid Wednesday, June 27, 2018, about 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth.(JAXA and partner institutions via AP)

The unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft reached its base of operations about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the asteroid and some 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

Over the next year and a half, the robotic explorer will attempt three brief touch-and-go landings to collect samples. If the retrieval and the return journey are successful, the asteroid material could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.

The mission is challenging. Hayabusa2 will spend about two months looking for suitable landing places on the uneven surface. Because of the high surface temperature, it will stay for only a few seconds each time it lands. Any samples would be sent back in a re-entry capsule that is due to arrive at the end of 2020.

Japan Space Probe
This computer graphics image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows an asteroid and asteroid explorer Hayabusa2. The Japanese space explorer that will try to blow a crater in an asteroid and bring back samples from inside is nearing its destination after a 3 1/2 -year journey. The unmanned Hayabusa2 has arrived at the asteroid Wednesday, June 27, 2018, about 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth.(JAXA via AP)

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter. In photos released by JAXA, the Japanese space agency, it appears more cube-shaped than round. A number of large craters can be seen, which Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda said in an online post makes the selection of landing points "both interesting and difficult."

The first touchdown is planned for September or October. Before the final touchdown, scheduled for April or May, Hayabusa2 will send out a squat cylinder that will detonate above the asteroid, shooting a 2-kilogram (4.4-pound) copper projectile into it at high speed to make a crater.

Japan Space Probe
In this Aug. 31, 2014, photo, asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 is displayed to media by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) at its facility in Sagamihara, near Tokyo. The Japanese space explorer that will try to blow a crater in an asteroid and bring back samples from inside is nearing its destination after a 3 1/2 -year journey. The unmanned Hayabusa2 has arrived at the asteroid Wednesday, June 27, 2018, about 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth. (Kyodo News via AP)

Hayabusa2 will hide on the other side of the asteroid to protect itself during the operation and wait another two to three weeks to make sure any debris that could damage the explorer has cleared. It will then attempt to land at or near the crater to collect underground material that was blown out of the crater, in addition to the surface material from the earlier touchdowns.

The spacecraft will also deploy three rovers that don't have wheels but can hop around on the surface of the asteroid to conduct probes. Hayabusa2 will also send a French-German-made lander to study the surface with four observation devices.

Takashi Kubota, Makoto Yoshikawa
Professor Takashi Kubota, right, and Associate Professor Makoto Yoshikawa, both of JAXA, the Japanese space agency, pose for photo, after asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 has arrived at the asteroid of Ryugu, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The Japanese space explorer arrived at an asteroid Wednesday after a three and half a year journey and now begins its real work of trying to blow a crater to collect samples to eventually bring back to Earth. The words in center, read "Hayabusa2 has arrived Ryugu". (Daisuke Suzuki/Kyodo News via AP)

Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system. As such, they may help explain how Earth evolved, including the formation of oceans and the start of life.

Hayabusa2, launched in December 2014, is a successor to the 2003-2010 Hayabusa mission, which collected samples from a different type of asteroid and took three years longer than planned after a series of technical glitches, including a fuel leak and a loss of contact for seven weeks.

NASA also has an ongoing asteroid mission. Its Osiris-Rex spacecraft is expected to reach the asteroid Bennu later this year and return with samples in 2023.

Comments
Read Comments
Comments
Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest Linked In List Menu Enlarge Gallery Info Menu Close Angle Down Angle Up Angle Left Angle Right Grid Grid Play Align Left Search Youtube Mail Mail Angle Down Bookmark