A camera on-board Hayabusa 2 shows the spacecraft’s sampler horn contacting the asteroid’s surface, then kicking up rocky debris after firing a sampling projectile. Credit: JAXA
Scientists celebrated another success with Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft on 11 July when the robot explorer accomplished a second pinpoint touch-and-go landing on asteroid Ryugu, this time to collect a sample of pristine dust and rock excavated by an explosive impactor earlier this year.
Using rocket thrusters to control its descent, and guided by a laser range finder, Hayabusa 2 glacially approached Ryugu on autopilot, slowing to a relative speed of about 10 centimetres per second (4-inches per second) in the final phase of the landing.
Hayabusa 2 manoeuvred over a bright navigation aid released on the asteroid’s surface earlier this year to mark the landing site, then went in for the final descent, with the probe’s sampling horn extending from the front of the spacecraft.
Telemetry data and imagery downlinked from Hayabusa 2 show the spacecraft briefly touched down on the asteroid at 0106 GMT (10:06 a.m. Japan Standard Time), and began climbing away from Ryugu seconds later, pulsing its thrusters to counteract the 900-meter-wide (half-mile-wide) asteroid’s feeble gravity.
At a press conference ...