The Japanese asteroid sampling mission Hayabusa2 – launched on December 3, 2014 aboard an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima, Japan – completed its long flight to asteroid Ryugu (formerly 1999 JU3) before – on September 21 – achieving the milestone of deploying its two tiny MINERVA-II robots/rovers, followed later by the deployment of the MASCOT lander. Then, on February 21 (UTC), Hayabusa2 successfully touched down on the surface.
The mission was approved as a follow-on to the Hayabusa mission which became the first probe to sample an asteroid when it landed on the young “rubble pile” asteroid Itokawa, though the mission had its share of problems.
The Hayabusa mission to Itokawa had problems with one of its four ion engines from the start of the mission after a solar flare damaged the craft and two reaction wheels failed before its approach to Itokawa.
The hopper that was supposed to land on the surface missed the asteroid and flew off into deep space, the sampling mechanism did not function properly, and although Hayabusa was able to land on Itokawa, it suffered thruster leaks and another ion engine failed during the trip home, and contact was lost for several weeks after the second ...