Asteroid Ryugu: Japan's Hayabusa2 Photographs Dice-Like Space Rock Like Never Before

Asteroid Ryugu

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) press release on Wednesday morning confirming the Hayabusa2 had made its rendezvous with Ryugu at 9:35 a.m. (Japan Standard Time, JST). In photos released by JAXA, the Japanese space agency, it appears more cube-shaped than round. After a year and a half long stay of collecting and analyzing, the spacecraft will pack up and head back to Earth. Hayabusa2 will spend about two months looking for suitable landing places on the uneven surface.

'On the other hand, there is a peak in the vicinity of the equator and a number of large craters, which makes the selection of the landing points both interesting and hard'.

Hayabusa-2 commenced its final approximate towards Ryugu on June 3; the asteroid is commencing to be a center of attention.

The asteroid is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter.

Landings are planned for September as well as February and April next year. "Maybe in spring next year, we will try to make a crater. then our spacecraft will try to reach into the crater to get the subsurface material".

In Japan and beyond, researchers are eager to see the data from Hayabusa2's visit - it's the first time humans have studied this type of asteroid, known as a C-type asteroid, at such a close range for an extended period.

Hayabusa Two's approach has also allowed Jaxa to determine the asteroid's orbit is retrograde, meaning it spins in the opposite direction to the Sun and the Earth.

It's also thought they may contain chemical compounds that could have been important for kick-starting life on Earth.

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Hayabusa2, about the size of a large fridge and equipped with solar panels, is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa - Japanese for falcon.

Launched in December 2014, the unmanned Hayabusa 2 spacecraft has now settled into an observational point almost 20 kilometers (12 miles) above the asteroid's surface, from where it will begin its scientific mission in about two months' time.

The probe will observe the surface with its camera and sensing equipment but will also drop tiny MINERVA-II rover robots as well as a French-German landing package named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) for surface observation. The asteroid is spinning very slowly - about once every 7.5 hours, and this is good news for the mission.

Samples obtained from Bennu are expected to return to Earth on the Osiris-Rex in 2023.

Brian May's video message on a stereo image of the Ryugu asteroid that JAXA's Hayabusa 2 probe reached, is shown at the JAXA Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on June 27, 2018.

The idea completely changed when Hayabusa2 came within 200 kilometers of the object and took a series of images, giving a close look at its exact shape.

"In other words, arriving at Ryugu is the same as aiming at a 6-centimeter target in Brazil from Japan", the agency said.

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