Hayabusa 2 Mission: Japanese Spacecraft Collects Sample, New Image Shows Landing Marks

Another remarkable history in science has been made as Japanese aircraft Hayabusa 2 had landed on the surface of asteroid 162173 Ryugu with a mission to collect a sample in order to help scientists find answers to understand the solar system's early history and evolution. 

The Japanese space agency or JAXA shared an image of Hayabusa's touchdown marks. It shows a dark splodge where it touched down on the surface of Ryugu, a primitive C-type (carbonaceous) asteroid. In the image, there is discoloration on the surface. According to BBC, it could be the result of grit being blown upward by the spacecraft's thrusters or caused by the bullet that it fired into the ground.

Hayabusa 2 was launched in December 2014 and landed at Ryugu in June 2018 after a 3.2-billion km journey. Ryugu is believed to contain pristine material left over from the primordial solar system 4.6 billion years ago. This is why scientists want to study the material from the asteroid.

Before the spacecraft touchdown, it fired a 5g “bullet” made of metal tantalum into the rocky surface of the asteroid at 300/ms. While collecting a sample, the spacecraft used an instrument called the sampler horn to approach the 1km-wide asteroid.

Mission team members announced last week that the order to fire the bullet had been issued, Space reported. Following the previous announcement, the team confirmed that Hayabusa 2 had moved away from Ryugu as planned. The team took a few more hours to confirm that the bullet had indeed been fired and that sample collection was successful.

Apart from Hayabusa 2, with a mission to discover and understand the history of the solar system, NASA also launched its spacecraft named OSIRIS-REx, with the mission to obtain 2 kg of material from asteroid Bennu, also a C-type asteroid, in late 2020. OSIRIS has been orbiting the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu since Dec. 31, 2018. The spacecraft is scheduled to collect Bennu bits in mid-2020 and return them to Earth in September 2023.