Hayabusa-2, Japan’s famous rover has made a smooth landing on Ryugu, an asteroid that orbits the Sun. The probe has successfully disembarked on the asteroid’s surface on Wednesday, July the 10th.
Hayabusa-2 was first sent into space on December 2014, controlled and launched by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The probe’s mission is to explore Ryugu’s surface and collect samples to bring back on Earth.
Back in April, the Japanese probe blew up small regions of the asteroid with a copper plate and explosives to lessen some rock fragments. Hayabusa-2 then landed back on Ryugu to gather the rocks and the soil debris resulted from the blast.
First rock samples from an asteroid
Asteroids are made up of rock and metal, and the majority of them are seen laying in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. Even so, Ryugu is among the few asteroids whose trajectory is taking it between Mars and Earth.
Ryugu has been labeled as a C-type asteroid. This means that it holds a plethora of organic carbon molecules, water, and possibly amino acids within. Some theories suggest that an asteroid first brought amino acids on Earth, which made life possible. This is, however, still under debate.
The Japanese Hayabusa-2 mission plans to be the first to take to Earth samples from an asteroid. The rover’s blast in April consisted in detonating a box of explosives in space that propelled a copper plate into the asteroid. The recent landing made a splash in all that material.
Hayabusa-2 then collected a few samples and took off from the asteroid’s surface. The probe will begin its journey back to our planet sometime at the end of this year.
NASA designed a similar project
NASA also has a similar mission, the OSIRIS-REx probe that was sent to Bennu, a much smaller C-type asteroid on August 2018. NASA’s probe, though, did not reach the asteroid’s surface, but it has been orbiting around it pretty closely.
Both Ryugu and Bennu could aid scientists to understand more about how the solar system evolved and possibly even about the origins of life on Earth.