- On Friday night he has the Japanese probe Hayabusa 2 he visited the asteroid Ryugu and took samples of material.
- Next year, the probe will return to Earth along with the collected material.
- Scientists hope the mission provides insights into the origins of the Earth.
At 23.49 Central Europe time it is almost over: in the control center of Sagamihara, just outside Tokyo, the employees are raising their arms and applause arrives, as reported by the Japanese space agency Jaxa in livestream. It will take another 30 minutes for all data to be tested until everyone in the control room is unsafe: an unmanned Japanese spacecraft has just taken samples from the Asteroid Ryugu about 300 million kilometers from Earth.
Hayabusa 2 Initially, samples were taken from the surface through a proboscis type. The material was previously rotated by bombardment with a ball. Further samples must be obtained in an equally spectacular way: a so-called Impactor, a piece of copper weighing two kilograms by weight, is discarded together with an explosive charge and fired to the ground. This creates an artificial crater.
Therefore, the Impactor has the same function as the hammers of a geologist on the earth. This only learns by destroying stone details about its nature, says Ralf Jaumann, planetary scientist of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
Because of Ryugu's very low gravity – only 60,000 of Earth's gravity – the Impactor falls so slowly that the spacecraft can reach the other side of the asteroid to protect itself from flying rock. After, return Hayabusa 2 go back and approach the asteroid for a few meters, so that it can again absorb the samples from the hole. So it's not about landing in the true sense of the word, but about "touchdowns," says Jaumann.
Data for the defense of asteroids
Ryugu's orbit around the sun cuts that of the earth. Therefore, it belongs to a group of asteroids that could also be dangerous for the earth. If such a celestial body was running towards the Earth, it would not have much to bomb it, explains Jaumann. Because this would only involve the fact that several small fragments fly with the same energy on the earth.
Rather, one should deviate a potentially threatening asteroid for a longer period of its orbit. This is why it is important to know its composition. For this scenario, the Hayabusa 2– Mission of precious data. Furthermore, Ryugu is as old as the earth. However, while this has changed from geological processes, the asteroid probably still has roughly the same shape as its creation. Therefore, it also provides information on the origin of our planet.
In the next year, the probe will return to Earth. Their previous model had brought soil samples of an asteroid to Earth for the first time in 2010. Hayabusa 2 it started in December 2014 in Japan and reached its destination after almost four years at the end of June last year. Since then it is in orbit around the sun with Ryugu.
The asteroid has its name from the submarine mansion of a dragon king, which is found in the Japanese tradition. Hayabusa 2 He had other indicators on the way to the asteroid. One of these is the "Mascot" robot developed by DLR and the French space agency CNES. He landed on the asteroid last October and spent several hours exploring it until his battery dried. While "Mascot" remains on Ryugu, the probe's mission goes Hayabusa 2 now on.