Choosing a Landing Spot on Asteroid Ryugu: Japan’s Hayabusa2 Mission Carries On


Japan’s scout on board of Hayabusa2 will land on the Asteroid Ryugu, according to the last official announcement on 23 August. The spacecraft has for some time approached the asteroid and looked for a landing spot, and the team finally agreed on a place. All we have to do is wait until October when the probes and the scout will land on the asteroid’s surface.

Hayabusa2 spacecraft’s Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) will be the one that will touch the surface of the asteroid. The mission officials announced that MASCOT would land on MA-9, on Ryugu’s southern hemisphere.

The team had to choose between 9 other areas, but in the end, it proved to have the perfect combinations: it was accessible and had scientific potential, explained MASCOT project manager Tra-Mi Ho (DLR Institute of Space Systems):

“From our perspective, the selected landing site means that we engineers can guide MASCOT to the asteroid’s surface in the safest way possible, while the scientists can use their various instruments in the best possible way.”

Hayabusa2 will also drop other three small rovers on the northern hemisphere of the space rock to cover a larger area.

Landing and Gathering Samples

On 3 October, the team will land Mascot on MA-9, hoping that the boulder on the surface won’t be a big problem, added Ho:

“There seem to be large boulders across most of Ryugu’s surface and barely [any] surfaces with flat regolith. Although scientifically very interesting, this is also a challenge for a small lander and for sampling.”

If everything goes according to plan, the MASCOT and the other three small rovers (Minerva-II-1a, Minerva-II-1b, and Minerva-II-2) will gather as much information about the asteroid as they can.

In 2019, the Hayabusa2 orbiter will leave Ryugu and come towards Earth in December 2020, with asteroid samples. The mission is crucial for scientists because the asteroid material would be in pristine condition. On Earth, scientists will use all the technology available to analyze the samples compared to what a robotic probe could do on its own in space.


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