The Hayabusa 2 space probe from Japan has now entered the final leg of its mission, which started four and a half years ago. It has completed a course adjustment, and it’s now close to its target: the asteroid Ryugu.
Hayabusa 2 should get closer to the asteroid on June 27, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) statement on June 24. Along with the statement, JAXA released some images received from their space probe.
The images were snapped with the probe’s camera from a distance of 136-62 miles (220-100 km). The top of the asteroid has a bright spot, and we can also see an equatorial ridge. Although at such distance, the photos show a detailed image of Ryugu, and they will get better as the probe will get closer.
Until it reaches the surface of the asteroid, the probe will have to take two minor course corrections, to get to a distance of 20 km from it. At 6 p.m., on 24 June, the craft was almost 36 km from Ryugu, announced JAXA.
The last course adjustment was made at Sagamihara, where the JAXA mission control center is. The team commanded the probe’s fire chemical thrusters to reduce the speed and change course. The craft is almost 300 million kilometers away from Earth, so all commands will take 32 minutes to reach it. Then, Hayabusa 2 has to send back telemetric data on the completion of the maneuvers.
Hayabusa 2 Will Come Back on Earth in 2020
As soon as Yuichi Tsuda, the project manager of Hayabusa 2 announced the team that the data and maneuvers were successful, they room burst into applause.
But the work is not yet finished. On 26 and 27 June, the team must make more course corrections to bring the spacecraft at 20 kilometers above Ryugu. Then, it will send a small lander and rovers to the asteroid’s surface and deliver samples to Earth for studies.
In November, the Hayabusa 2 explorer will make three landings on Ryugu to collect soil samples. It is scheduled to return close to the end of 2020.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.