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Hayabusa2 Team Looks Toward Sample Collection

26 Oct 2018, 18:12 UTC
Hayabusa2 Team Looks Toward Sample Collection
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With two rovers and a lander already deployed on the asteroid 162173 Ryugu, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) must be basking in the glow of an unusually successful venture. Now we turn to a key part of the Hayabusa2 mission, the retrieval of a surface sample. Two touchdown rehearsals have gone well, providing detailed views of the asteroid’s surface. The plan is to return samples to Earth in December of 2020, but let’s continue to take one thing at a time. Sample retrieval can be dicey, as we saw with the first Hayabusa.
Once known as MUSES-C, the original Hayabusa reached asteroid Itokawa in September of 2005 (I can’t believe it was that long ago — as the cliché would have it, it seems like yesterday). A series of enroute problems included a solar flare that damaged the craft’s solar cells and the failure of attitude-adjusting reaction wheels, while the launch of a probe called MINERVA also failed. Nonetheless, surface particles from Itokawa were successfully returned to Earth.
Now the Hayabusa2 team works on landing site selection, no easy task. Keeping the spacecraft safe means looking for regions ideally 100 meters in diameter in which there is an average ...

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