First Detection of Sugars in Meteorites Gives Clues to Origin of Life

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — An international team has found sugars essential to life in meteorites. The new discovery adds to the growing list of biologically important compounds that have been found in meteorites, supporting the hypothesis that chemical reactions in asteroids – the parent bodies of many meteorites – can make some of life’s ingredients. If correct, meteorite bombardment on ancient Earth may have assisted the origin of life with a supply of life’s building blocks.

(more…)

Hayabusa2 Releases Target Markers in Advance to Another Rover Landing

The target markers are in preparation for the landing of the MINERVA-II2 Rover-2 on the surface of asteroid Ryugu in October.

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Hayabusa2 Team Mulls Second Touchdown on Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 1: Image taken on June 13, 2019 during the operation PPTD-TM1B. This is a composite of 28 images taken at 7 second intervals starting from 10:58 JST (upper left) to 11:01 (lower right) using the Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T). The image altitude is about 52m at the start and 108m at the end. The white point in the upper-left center is the target marker. You can see that detailed images have been acquired continuously from the target marker to the edge of the artificial crater, located in the lower-right of the image. (Image credit: JAXA, Chiba Institute of Technology, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Our first touchdown took place this year on February 22. Then as a new challenge for the Hayabusa2 Project, we succeeded in creating an artificial crater using the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) on April 5.

The last big operation left at asteroid Ryugu is the collection of subsurface material exposed with the creation of the artificial crater. In order to collect this material, we need a second touchdown for which the project has been steadily preparing. At this point, it has not yet been decided whether or not to go ahead with a second touchdown, but here we will introduce our preparations in the “Approach to the second touchdown”.

(more…)











Hayabusa2 Program Wins Two Prestigious Awards

The award for Hayabusa2. Project Manager Tsuda (far left) received the award. (Credit: Hayabusa2 Project)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Hayabusa2 Project has received awards from the Aviation Week Network and the Japan Society for Aeronautical and Space Sciences.

(more…)











Ryugu’s Fast-spinning Past Shaped the Asteroid’s Western Hemisphere

Figure 1: When viewed from a certain direction (90 degrees west), the angle of the equatorial ridge on Ryugu becomes very sharp. This feature is also discussed in the paper led by Sei’ichiro Watanabe. (Hirabayashi, M.+, 2019)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Astrophysical Journal Letters is an academic journal for research results in astronomy and astrophysics published in the United States. Our paper on the shape of asteroid Ryugu was recently included in the journal (publication date: March 26, 2019) entitled:

Hirabayashi, M., and 28 colleagues, “The western bulge of 162173 Ryugu formed as a result of a rotationally driven deformation process,” The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2019, 874, 1, doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ab0e8b .
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/ab0e8b

In this article, we will highlight our main findings from this research.

(more…)











Earth vs. Asteroids: Humans Strike Back

SCI impactor on way to Ryugu asteroid (Credit: JAXA/The University of Tokyo/Kochi University/Rikkyo University/Nagoya University/Chiba Institute of Technology/Meiji University/The University of Aizu/AIST)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Incoming asteroids have been scarring our home planet for billions of years. This month humankind left our own mark on an asteroid for the first time: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft dropped a copper projectile at very high speed in an attempt to form a crater on asteroid Ryugu. A much bigger asteroid impact is planned for the coming decade, involving an international double-spacecraft mission.

(more…)











JAXA Confirms Creation of Artificial Crater on Asteroid Ryugu

These images were captured by the Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic onboard Hayabusa2. By comparing the two images, we have confirmed that an artificial crater was created in the area surrounded by dotted lines. The size and depth of the crater are now under analysis. (Credit: JAXA, The University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, The University of Aizu, AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) separated the SCI (Small Carry-on Impactor), which had been onboard the asteroid explorer Hayabusa2, on April 5, 2019, for deployment to Ryugu, and then put the SCI into operation.

As a result of checking the images captured by the Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T) onboard the asteroid explorer Hayabusa2, we have concluded that a crater was created by the SCI.

Hayabusa2 is operating normally.