We’re seeing our final images of asteroid Ryugu as the Hayabusa2 spacecraft leaves its orbit some 300 million kilometers from Earth. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) intends to keep taking images of the receding Ryugu for several more days, after which it will be necessary to perform an attitude control maneuver to orient the craft for proper operation of its ion engines. An ion engine test period will culminate in cruise operations on December 3 to return the spacecraft to Earth.
Image: Asteroid Ryugu captured with the Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T) immediately after departure. Image time is November 13 10:15 JST (onboard time), 2019. Credit: JAXA, Chiba Institute of Technology, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST.
Happily, we are asked to join in JAXA’s ‘Goodbye Ryugu’ campaign by sending a #Sayonara_Ryugu tweet (https://twitter.com/haya2e_jaxa), although the agency also encourages old-fashioned cards and letters (as a collector of vintage fountain pens, I rather appreciate this). The address: Hayabusa2 Project, JAXA Institute of Space & Astronautical Science (ISAS), 3-1-1 Yoshinodai, Chuo-ku, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, 252-5210, Japan.
Says JAXA: “5 years after launch and at the conclusion of about a ...