Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2: Second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 11.07.2019
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2: Second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu

Hayabusa 2 has landed on the asteroid and is collecting rocks and dust to take back home to Earth. Landing on a moving object in outer space is not an easy feat. Researchers are celebrating the achievement.

Japan's Hayabusa 2 space probe made its second touchdown on a distant asteroid on Thursday June 11, in a bid to collect mineral samples that could reveal more about the solar system's evolution. Already on February 22, the "Falcon 2" had touched down on asteroid Ryugu for the first time. 

Then, Hayabusa 2 touched down briefly on the Ryugu asteroid, fired a bullet into the surface to puff up dust for collection and blasted back to its holding position, said officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Later, in April, the space probe fired another bullet at the asteroid, stirring up more dust and creating a crater. 

"We've collected a part of the solar system's history," project manager Yuichi Tsuda said at a jubilant press conference hours after the successful landing was confirmed. "We have never gathered sub-surface material from a celestial body further away than the Moon. We did it, and we succeeded in a world first."

The fridge-sized probe made its second landing on the asteroid at around 10:30 a.m. in Japan (0130 GMT), with officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) breaking into applause and cheers as initial data suggested the touchdown had been a success.

Confirmation of the landing came only after Hayabusa 2 lifted back up from the asteroid and resumed communications with the control room.

Research director Takashi Kubota told reporters that the touchdown operation was "more than perfect." And Tsuda, with a grin, said he rated it "1,000 points out of 100." "The probe moved perfectly and the team's preparation work was perfect," he said. 

Hayabusa 2 had blasted off in December 2014 on a 3.2 billion-kilometer journey (equivalent to roughly 80,000 trips around the Earth's circumference) to Ryugu, which is named after a mythical Japanese underwater castle. The probe carried several landers that touched down on the asteroid in 2018 and collected information.

Among them: the "Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout" (MASCOT) landing vehicle, built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the French space agency CNES, that took images, investigated minerals, gauged surface temperatures and measured magnetic fields on the asteroid.

Samples from outer space

Hayabusa 2's mission is to collect asteroid dust and rocks to bring back to Earth. Researchers hope the information gathered will help them understand more about the origins of our universe.

An earlier Hayabusa mission from 2003 to 2010 was unable to collect as many samples as hoped from a different space rock, but still made history by being the first mission to bring back samples from an asteroid.

If all goes well, Hayabusa 2 will return to Earth with soil and rock samples in 2020, according to JAXA. 

cb/fs (AFP, dpa)

DW recommends