The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 just landed in the desert of southern Australia, brought a small cache of asteroid Ryugu’s rocks to the Earth. It’s only the second time in history that materials from an asteroid have been brought to the earth. Eventually, scientists will research and uncover the precious rocks within to learn more about the asteroids that permeate our Solar System.
Hayabusa-2 was launched in December 2014 by JAXA. Its mission was to visit the distant, lonely, and icy world of Ryugu―a half-mile wide-body― study its surface and collect soil and debris samples. Asteroid Ryugu is a primitive asteroid that orbits the sun at a distance of up to 131 million miles (211 million kilometers).
After launching from Japan in 2014, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft spent four years journey to reach Ryugu and studied the 900 meters wide asteroid up close since last June. The mission plan includes a touchdown of the spacecraft inside the crater to pick up a pinch of dust samples of the asteroid.
In February 2019, Hayabusa-2 had touched down on the asteroid’s surface and successfully collected the samples. The second touchdown onto the asteroid, preceded by the latest blast on the surface provided scientists with subsurface dust samples that had not been exposed to sunlight or other space radiations for billions of years. Scientists hope to additional knowledge about the origin of inner planets, particularly the origin of water and organic compounds on earth, all relevant to the origin of life on earth.
In 2020, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) released a couple of stunning images of the asteroid captured by Hayabusa.
The first photo was taken at 10:06:32 JST (onboard time) and the gravel flying upwards was quite visible. The second shot was at 10:08:53 where the darker region near the center is due to touchdown,” JAXA tweeted.