The Hayabusa 2 mission of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is heading towards Earth to release its sample collection capsule before moving on to the next part of its extended mission: visiting more asteroids.
While the event is taking place on Sunday between 3:30 to 4:30 pm Australian time, it will take place between 11:30 pm and 12:30 pm ET Saturday. The capsule is expected to land on Earth about 15 minutes after it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
A fireball would wave in the early morning sky of the Australian Outback during the outrage.
Hayabusa 2 launched on 3 December 2014, and in June 2018 the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft collected a sample from the surface of the asteroid on February 22, 2019, then fired a copper “bullet” into the asteroid to create a 33. Wide impact pit. A specimen was collected from this pit on 11 July 2019.
Then, Hayabusa 2 released the asteroid in November 2019 and went back to Earth.
Overall, the mission’s science team believes that 1 gram of material was collected, but they cannot be certain until they open it.
“One gram may seem small, but to us, one gram is too big,” said Masaki Fujimoto, deputy director general of the Department of Solar Systems Sciences at JAXA, during an online briefing organized by the Australian Science Media Center. “This is enough to address our science questions.”
The agency’s first Hayabusa mission returned samples to Earth from the asteroid Itokawa in June 2010, but scientists said that due to the failure of the spacecraft’s sampling equipment, they were only able to obtain micrograms of dust from the asteroid.
“Ryugu is connected to the process that made our planet habitable,” Fujimoto said. “The Earth was born dry; it did not start with water. We think distant bodies like Ryugu hit the inner part of the solar system, collided with the Earth, transported water and made it habitable. That’s the basic question. After which we are and we need it. To sort the samples. “
A fiery return
Since Hayabusa 2 is not returning to Earth, it is rejecting the 35-pound sample return capsule as it swings by our planet 136,701 miles this weekend. Then, the spacecraft will change its course to travel beyond Earth and move forward with its extended mission.
The Australian government allowed JAXA to land its capsules in the Woomera prohibited area in South Australia. This remote area is used by Australia’s Department of Defense for testing.
The Japanese space agency previously used the site for the Hayabusa landing in 2010. Its partnership with Australia appealed to JAXA due to the large, flat and open nature of the land and the fact that the team could quickly move samples from Australia to Japan.
Around 4pm Australia time, the team will look for a fireball to fire into the Australian sky.
“For non-team members, the fireball sounds like a grand finale. But for us, it’s the bell that’s ringing and telling us, ‘This is not a drill,” Fujimoto said.
The large landing zone extends 124 miles north to south and 62 miles east to west. The agency designated this large area to compensate for any uncertainty created by local wind speeds when the capsule deploys its parachute.
Then, the team will try to locate the landing spot of the capsule as soon as possible.
Once the capsule is located, a helicopter will take the sample team scientists to the landing site so that they can collect it. The capsules would be placed in a protective box, and they would bring it to headquarters, a temporary facility they had built.
This clean room will allow the team to examine and degassing the capsule. It is possible that the capsule collects gases from the asteroid – most likely emitted by the collected spacecraft’s sample. Any detection of gas in a gas sample container is a good indication that they have successfully collected a sample of material from the asteroid.
Fujimoto said that the material collected from the asteroid will be officially announced when the sample is returned from Japan and opened.
Hayabusa 2 will be flown by three asteroids between 2026 and 2031, eventually reaching the fast-moving micro-asteroid 1998 KY26 in July 2031, millions of miles away from Earth. This would be the first flyby of such an asteroid.
What is in the asteroid sample?
Asteroids are like survivors of the formation of our solar system, preserving information about the origin of the planets as well as the vital elements that make life exist on Earth.
The Rygu is shaped like a diamond and is just over half a mile in diameter.
“I think the Hayabusa2 sample of the asteroid Ryugu would be similar to a meteorite that fell near Murchison, Victoria, Australia, more than 50 years ago,” said Trevor Ireland, a professor at the Australian National University School of Earth Sciences and in a statement in Woomera. Member of the Hayabusa 2 science team.
“The Murchison meteorite opened a window on the origins of organics on Earth as the abundant amino acids as well as abundant water were found in these rocks. We will investigate whether Ryugu was a source of organic matter and water on Earth during solar energy. Potential source or not. Was building and whether these are still intact on the asteroid. “
Ryugu is also a near-Earth asteroid that has an orbit that takes it between Earth and Mars. It will reach closer to Earth in December 2076. Understanding these potentially dangerous asteroids can be planned by space agencies on how to define them.
The NASA OSIRIS-REx mission recently collected a specimen from another near-Earth asteroid, Bennu, similar to Ryugu. In fact, based on early data from both missions, scientists working on both missions believe that it is possible that these two asteroids once belonged to the same large parent body before it was a Was separated from the effect.
Beanu’s sample will return to Earth by 2023.
Patrick Michel, director of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, is an investigator for both missions.
“It’s really important to realize that no two asteroids are the same,” Mitchell told CNN in October. “Even though Benu and Ryugu share some intriguing similarities and belong to the same category (primitive), they also have very interesting differences. And these samples will capture generations of researchers as they have kept a large amount for future generations Which will benefit. Increase in accuracy of technology and equipment used to analyze them. “