Hayabusa-2, operated by JAXA (the Japanese space agency) reached Asteroid Ryugu in June 2018. Since then, the asteroid-mining mission has been circling Ryugu. But that phase will soon be coming to an end as Hayabusa-2 will attempt to land on Ryugu. The purpose? To start mining Asteroid Ryugu and collect soil samples.
According to a JAXA statement dated February 18th, Hayabusa-2 will touch down on Ryugu on February 21st, at 6 PM EST. Once it lands, Hayabusa-2 would perform asteroid mining for science. It would shoot a projectile into Asteroid Ryugu, which, on impact, will throw away dust and rock pieces which Hayabusa-2 would grab.
The asteroid-mining probe would perform that operation twice to make sure it collects enough of the Asteroid Ryugu’s surface for the scientists back home to study more in-depth. The goal of the mission is purely scientific, so would not serve for the future asteroid mining operations.
JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 Would Perform Asteroid Mining For Science on Asteroid Ryugu
Asteroid mining would be a very profitable industry in the future. Some private space companies are already working on solutions to make that possible. The primary goal of asteroid mining would be to mine space rock rich in resources and precious metals for profit. On the other hand, the purpose of JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 is to conduct asteroid mining for science on Asteroid Ryugu.
More specifically, the soil samples Hayabusa-2 collects would reach Earth where the Japanese scientists will analyze them hoping to find more about the formation of the Solar System, planets formation process, and the origins of water on Earth.
Asteroid Ryugu is the ideal target for that purposes since it’s a carbonaceous near-Earth asteroid, which meant that it is rich in pristine materials. Therefore, the researchers expect Ryugu to contain minerals, ice, and organic compounds.
JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 would leave Asteroid Ryugu in December, and it would fly back to Earth to deliver the soil samples. Hayabusa-2 would be home by December 2020.