Hayabusa2 Packs Up Soil Samples for Return to Earth

Artificial crater created by Hayabusa 2 on asteroid Ryugu (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft is not scheduled to return its precious cargo of soil samples of asteroid Ryugu to Earth for 16 more months, but it has already begun to pack up for home.

“In an operation today (August 26), the sample catcher was stored in the re-entry capsule (see figure). The sampler and capsule teams gathered to watch and the operation was completed successfully. The capsule is now ready for Earth return!” JAXA tweeted.

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The Near-Earth Asteroid Ryugu – a Fragile Cosmic ‘Rubble Pile’

(Credit: MSCOT/DLR/JAXA)
  • The asteroid is similar to carbonaceous, 4.5 billion year old meteorites found in collections on Earth.
  • Ryugu has numerous cavities.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — In the summer of 2018, the asteroid Ryugu, which measures only approximately 850 metres across, was visited by the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft. On board was the 10-kilogram German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) – a lander no bigger than a microwave oven and equipped with four instruments.

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JAXA Names Artificial Crater and Boulders on Asteroid Ryugu

Artificial crater on asteroid Ryugu with names. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The following nicknames are being used for the area around the artificial crater:

  • Artificial crater: Omusubi-Kororin crater (SCI crater)
  • Moved rock: Iijima boulder
  • Immobile rock: Okamoto boulder
  • Large boulder: Onigiri boulder

Omusubi-Kororin crater (SCI crater)

From the folktale of the “rolling rice ball”. This was chosen as the boulders in this vicinity are shaped like Japanese rice balls and may roll down into the crater. The crater will also continue to be referred to as the “SCI crater”, depending on the situation.

Iijima boulder

In memory of Yuichi Iijima. Dr Iijima worked to gain the cooperation from universities outside JAXA during the start-up of the Hayabusa2 Project and so laid the foundation for Project’s success. In particular, in order to maximise the scientific results from the impact experiment, he worked hard across different fields and focussed on the proposal and development for the digital deployable camera for scientific observation (DCAM3). Dr Iijima passed away on December 7, 2012.

Okamoto boulder

In memory of Chisato Okamoto. Dr Okamoto was one of the core members of the Hayabusa2 sampler development team and energetically repeated laboratory experiments in preparation for collecting samples on Ryugu. She was also a member of the impact experiment team and played a central role in the simulation of the asteroid surface conditions used for the impact experiment in Kamioka. Dr Okamoto passed away on July 25, 2018.

Onigiri boulder

An onigiri is a Japanese rice ball (sometimes the shape is triangular) and resembles this boulder. (Both omusubi and onigiri mean rice ball.)

Return and Recovery Plan for Hayabusa2 Sample Return Capsule

Hayabusa-2 spacecraft (Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita / JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — This report concerns the current status of the return and recovery plan of the Hayabusa2 sample return capsule.

At the end of 2020, Hayabusa2 plans to return to the Earth with the samples collected from asteroid Ryugu. As with the recovery of the first Hayabusa in 2010, JAXA is currently working with the Australian Government to support the recovery of the Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule in 2020 at the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) located in the outback desert of South Australia.

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Australia Set to Welcome JAXA’s Hayabusa2 Return Capsule

Figure 2: Touchdown image overlapped with the planned touchdown site. The white dot at the end of the arrow is the target marker. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

CANBERRA (Australian Space Agency PR — To learn more about the solar system’s origin and evolution, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is investigating typical types of asteroids. Analysing samples from asteroids enables us to study organic matter and water in the solar system.

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NASA OSIRIS-REx Mission Selects Final Four Site Candidates for Asteroid Sample Return

Pictured are the four candidate sample collection sites on asteroid Bennu selected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Site Nightingale (top left) is located in Bennu’s northern hemisphere. Sites Kingfisher (top right) and Osprey (bottom left) are located in Bennu’s equatorial region. Site Sandpiper (bottom right) is located in Bennu’s southern hemisphere. In December, one of these sites will be chosen for the mission’s touchdown event. (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — After months grappling with the rugged reality of asteroid Bennu’s surface, the team leading NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission has selected four potential sites for the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to “tag” its cosmic dance partner.

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Asteroid’s Close Approach Demonstrates Need for More Eyes in the Sky

ESA observation of 2019OK through ISON network (Credit: S. Schmalz/ISON)

PARIS (ESA PR) — On 25 July, an asteroid the size of a football field flew by Earth, coming within 65 000 km of our planet’s surface during its closest approach – about one fifth of the distance to the Moon.

The 100 m-wide asteroid dubbed ‘2019 OK’ was detected just days before it passed Earth, although archival records from sky surveys show it had previously been observed but wasn’t recognised as a near-Earth asteroid.

While 2019 OK illustrates the need for even more eyes on the sky, it also provides an opportunity to improve the asteroid recognising abilities of current and future telescopes, including ESA’s upcoming ‘Flyeye‘.

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Hayabusa2’s MASCOT Lander Confirms What Scientists Have Long Suspected at Asteroid Ryugu

Close-up of the rock examined by MASCOT. The yellow arrow shows the direction of the incident light, and the dotted line separates the observed stone from the background. The red arrow shows the part of the rock where the radiometer MARA measured the surface temperature, the dotted line here shows a ledge. The scale in the center of the image shows the dimensions at this distance from the camera. The image was acquired by the DLR camera MASCAM on MASCOT. (Credit: MASCOT/DLR/JAXA)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR) PR) — Ryugu and other asteroids of the common ‘C-class’ consist of more porous material than was previously thought. Small fragments of their material are therefore too fragile to survive entry into the atmosphere in the event of a collision with Earth.

This has revealed the long-suspected cause of the deficit of this meteorite type in finds on Earth. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have come to this conclusion in a scientific paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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ESA Confirms Asteroid Will Miss Earth in September

Asteroid Lutetia (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Asteroid 2006 QV89, a small object 20 to 50 metres in diameter, was in the news lately because of a very small, 1-in-7000 chance of impact with Earth on 9 September 2019.

In the first known case of ruling out an asteroid impact through a ‘non-detection’, ESA and the European Southern Observatory have concluded that asteroid 2006 QV89 is not on a collision course this year – and the chance of any future impact is extremely remote.

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Images From Hayabusa2’s Second Landing on Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Today (July 11), the Hayabusa2 spacecraft performed a second touchdown on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. The touchdown occurred at 10:06 JST at the on board time and was successful.

From the data sent from Hayabusa2, it has been confirmed that the touchdown sequence, including the discharge of a projectile for sampling, was completed successfully. Hayabusa2 is functioning normally, and thus the second touchdown ended with success.

Below we show images taken before and after the touchdown. As this is a quick bulletin, more detailed information will be given in the future.

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When CubeSats Meet Asteroid

CubeSat approaching asteroid (Credit: ESA – Science Office)

TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence, being designed to survey the smallest asteroid ever explored, is really three spacecraft in one. The main mothership will carry two briefcase-sized CubeSats, which will touch down on the target body. A French team has been investigating what might happen at that initial instant of alien contact.

“We’ve customised an existing drop tower and rigged it up with a system of pulleys and counterweights in order to simulate a low gravity environment,” explains researcher Naomi Murdoch of the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-Supaero), part of the University of Toulouse.

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Jumping Space Robot Flies Like Spacecraft

Spacebok jumping in simulated lunar gravity. (Credit; ETH Zurich/ZHAW Zurich)

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands (ESA ) — Astronauts on the Moon found themselves hopping around, rather than simply walking. Switzerland’s SpaceBok planetary exploration robot has followed their example, launching all four legs off the ground during tests at ESA’s technical heart.

SpaceBok is a quadruped robot designed and built by a Swiss student team from ETH Zurich and ZHAW Zurich. It is currently being tested using robotic facilities at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands.

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JAXA, CNES to Cooperate on Hayabusa2 Sample Analysis, Martian Moons Mission

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency [JAXA] has agreed to cooperate with Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) on the study-phase activities in JAXA’s Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission and analysis of Hayabusa2-returned samples.

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NASA Gives a Financial Boost to In-Space Welding Projects

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA selected two projects for funding focused on developing in-space welding technologies as part of its recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards.

The space agency selected Busek Company of Natick, Mass., and Made in Space of Jacksonville, Fla., for phase 1 awards worth up to $125,000 apiece for six months.

“Busek proposes to initiate the development of a semi-autonomous, teleoperated welding robot for joining of external (or internal metallic uninhabited volume at zero pressure) surfaces in space,”according to the proposal summary. “This welding robot will be an adaptation of a versatile Busek developed system called SOUL (Satellite On Umbilical Line) with a suitable weld head attached to it.

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