- Awareness in space.
For Prelims and Mains: Objectives and significance of the mission, Asteroid Ryugu.
Context: Japan Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced that a probe, Hayabusa2, had successfully landed on an asteroid- Ryugu– 300 million km from Earth.
Notably, Hayabusa2 is the second Japanese spacecraft to land on an asteroid, after Hayabusa achieved a similar feat back in 2005.
In mid-September 2005, Hayabusa landed on the asteroid Itokawa, and managed to collect samples in the form of grains of asteroidal material. It returned to Earth with the samples in June 2010, thereby becoming the first spacecraft to return asteroid samples to Earth for analysis.
- It is an asteroid sample-return mission operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA.
- It was launched on 3 December 2014 and rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu on 27 June 2018.
- It is in the process of surveying the asteroid for a year and a half, departing in December 2019, and returning to Earth in December 2020.
- Hayabusa2 carries multiple science payloads for remote sensing, sampling, and four small rovers that will investigate the asteroid surface to inform the environmental and geological context of the samples collected.
The Hayabusa2 payload incorporates multiple scientific instruments:
- Remote sensing: Optical Navigation Camera (ONC-T, ONC-W1, ONC-W2), Near-Infrared Camera (NIR3), Thermal-Infrared Camera (TIR), Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR).
- Sampling: Sampling device (SMP), Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), Deployable Camera (DCAM3).
- Four rovers: Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT), Rover-1A, Rover-1B, Rover-2.
The scientific objectives of Hayabusa2 mission are twofold:
- To characterize the asteroid from remote sensing observations (with multispectral cameras, near-infrared spectrometer, thermal infrared imager, laser altimeter) on a macroscopic scale
- To analyse the samples returned from the asteroid on a microscopic scale.
What is the significance of the mission?
Ryugu is a C-type asteroid – a relic from the early days of the Solar System. Scientists think that C-type asteroids contain both organic matter, and trapped water, and might have been responsible for bringing both to Earth, thereby providing the planet with the materials necessary for life to originate.