Japan's Hayabusa-2 probe is to begin year-long journey back to Earth after 'unprecedented' mission to collect soil samples from an asteroid that could shed light on the origins of the Solar System

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  • Hayabusa-2 travelled 186 million miles from Earth to the asteroid Ryugu
  • It was launched in 2013 by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA 
  • The aim of the mission was to bring samples of an asteroid back to Earth
  • It is due to drop the samples off in the South Australian desert late in 2020

Scientists hope will provide clues into what the Solar System was like at its birth some 4.6billion years ago

Scientists hope will provide clues into what the Solar System was like at its birth some 4.6billion years ago

The probe was sent 186million miles from Earth to the asteroid Ryugu whose name means 'Dragon Palace' in Japanese

The probe was sent 186million miles from Earth to the asteroid Ryugu whose name means ‘Dragon Palace’ in Japanese

The mission had a price tag of around 30 billion yen ($270 million) and has already made history, including with the creation of the first man-made crater on the surface of an asteroid

The mission had a price tag of around 30 billion yen ($270 million) and has already made history, including with the creation of the first man-made crater on the surface of an asteroid

It is due to start its year long return journey to Earth on Wednesday 13th November and should drop the samples off in the South Australian desert late in 2020

It is due to start its year long return journey to Earth on Wednesday 13th November and should drop the samples off in the South Australian desert late in 2020

At about the size of a large refrigerator and equipped with solar panels to keep it powered, Hayabusa-2 is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa - Japanese for falcon

 At about the size of a large refrigerator and equipped with solar panels to keep it powered, Hayabusa-2 is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa – Japanese for falcon

Back in April, the probe fired an 'impactor' at the surface of the space rock to make a crater and stir up material that had not previously been exposed to the atmosphere

Back in April, the probe fired an ‘impactor’ at the surface of the space rock to make a crater and stir up material that had not previously been exposed to the atmosphere 

Hayabusa Two (artist's impression)  carries a number of experiments including four surface rovers and an explosive device designed to gouge out 'fresh' rock samples

Hayabusa Two (artist’s impression) carries a number of experiments including four surface rovers and an explosive device designed to gouge out ‘fresh’ rock samples

A space probe dubbed the ‘asteroid explorer’ is coming back to Earth as part of the final stage of an ‘unprecedented mission’ to sample a space rock. 

Hayabusa-2 was launched in 2014 by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA with the aim of bringing samples from under the soil of an asteroid back to Earth. 

The probe was sent 186 million miles from Earth to the asteroid Ryugu, whose name means ‘Dragon Palace’ in Japanese.

If the return goes to plan it will be the first space mission to successfully return rock samples from under the surface of an asteroid to the Earth.

Scientists hope the asteroid, which is thought to contain relatively large amounts of organic matter and water from the birth some 4.6billion years ago will provide clues into what the Solar System was like at that time.

‘We expect Hayabusa-2 will provide new scientific knowledge to us,’ project manager Yuichi Tsuda said.

The probe will bring back to Earth ‘carbon and organic matter’ that will provide data as to ‘how the matter is scattered around the Solar System, why it exists on the asteroid and how it is related to Earth,’ added Mr Tsuda. 

It is due to start its year long return journey to Earth on Wednesday 13th November and should drop the samples off in the South Australian desert late in 2020. 

‘I’m feeling half-sad, half-determined to do our best to get the probe home,’ said Mr Tsuda.

‘Ryugu has been at the heart of our everyday life for the past year and a half.’ 

It took the probe three-and-a-half years to get to the asteroid but the return journey should be significantly shorter because Earth and Ryugu will be much closer due to their current positions. 

At about the size of a large refrigerator and equipped with solar panels to keep it powered, Hayabusa-2 is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa – Japanese for falcon. 

The earlier probe was able to return samples to Earth despite a number of scientific setbacks but only a small amount of dust was recovered. 

Back in April, the probe fired an ‘impactor’ at the surface of the space rock to make a crater and stir up material that had not previously been exposed to the atmosphere. 

It dipped down to retrieve these samples in mid-July. 

Hayabusa-2 is the first to successfully collect underground soil samples from an asteroid and comes ahead of a NASA mission targeting another asteroid. 

The mission had a price tag of around 30 billion yen ($270 million) and has  already made history, including with the creation of the first man-made crater on the surface of an asteroid.

In 2005, NASA’s Deep Impact project succeeded in creating an artificial crater on a comet but only for observation purposes.

Under the current plan, Hayabusa-2 will continue its journey in space after dropping off its capsule to Earth, and might ‘carry out another asteroid exploration.’

‘The team has just started to study what can be done (after dropping off the capsule),’ but there is no concrete plans about a new destination, Mr Tsuda said.

Jaxa’s Hayabusa Two probe is on a mission to study the ancient asteroid Ryugu in a bid to help scientists better understand the origins of the universe.

The probe launched in December 2014 and arrived at the dice-shaped space rock on June 27, 2018.

Hayabusa Two is studying soil and rock samples using several pieces of equipment.

The probe is loaded with four surface landers, an array of cameras and even an explosive device that will dig out subsurface rock samples.

Ryugu, a Type C asteroid, contains traces of water and organic material and it is hoped that analysing this material will reveal what the early conditions were like at the time the solar system formed around 4,6 billion years ago.

Hayabusa Two is expected to return to Earth in late 2020 carrying samples for further analysis.



Source By Breaking News Website | BreakingNews.WS