In December 2020 the spacecraft named Hayabusa 2 will swing past our planet and drop off asteroid samples that will be collected for research. Having collected samples from the asteroid Ryugu last year, the spacecraft is just months away from returning them to Earth. The samples contain material that likely dates back to the dawn of the solar system, 4.6 billion years ago. They could provide fresh insights into how celestial bodies came to be and even how life on Earth began.
On July 14, 2020, the JAXA along with the Australian Space Agency just announced the date for collecting the samples. On December 6, 2020, Hayabusa will land the samples on Woomera Range Complex. Woomera makes it ideal for the safe management and landing of this particular craft and capsule.
The Hayabusa2 project is considering an extended mission after returning the capsule to Earth. Plans have been narrowed down to 2 possible candidate targets: asteroids 2001 AV43 or 1998 KY26. Both are small & fast spinning objects, which is a type that has not yet been explored. pic.twitter.com/OYpQAyy7ob
— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) July 22, 2020
Hayabusa 2 coming back to Earth says JAXA
Hayabusa2’s predecessor, Hayabusa, also used the Woomera landing site when it returned a capsule containing about a millionth of a gram of dust from the asteroid Itokawa in 2010. That mission had been planned to retrieve far more, but it was hindered by multiple mishaps in deep space.
The agency will decide by this fall whether the destination is the asteroid “2001AV43” or “1998KY26”, with both measuring tens of meters in diameter and rotating rapidly. The mission is also collecting data that could help put in place a policy on ways to stop an approaching asteroid from hitting Earth in the future.
“Ryugu Trek" has been released! Developed by members of the NASA Ames Research Center & JPL, this site allows you to interactively explore Ryugu from your browser & in virtual reality. Please try investigating this new world discovered by Hayabusa2! Site: https://t.co/CiQL4CnEKU pic.twitter.com/grWPXFXxGC
— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) July 19, 2020
Hayabusa 2, which was launched on a rocket in December 2014, is now on its way home from the mission of collecting samples from an asteroid. Hayabusa 2 will have the first turn in the limelight, however. And if all goes to plan, it could provide a fascinating glimpse into the early solar system, and possibly even our own beginnings here on Earth.
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