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By Matthew Lasley
For Metal Tech News 

Hayabusa 2 to drop asteroid samples soon

Spacecraft to drop samples in Australia; continue exploration Metal Tech News – December 2, 2020

 

Last updated 12/1/2020 at 6:52pm

Hayabusa 2 Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Ryugu asteroid type-C

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

On Dec. 6, the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is expected to drop its sample of the asteroid Ryugu into the Australian Outback.

Are we there yet? With only about 1.4 million miles to go, the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is about to finish its primary mission that has carried it over 3.25 billion miles so far! Even though it reached the near-earth asteroid Ryugu, a mere 7.5 million miles away as the space crow flies, and retrieved samples to return, the overall success of the mission depends on whether it can safely return those samples to Earth.

Unlike its predecessor, Hayabusa 1, which burned up on reentry, Hayabusa 2 will jettison its load and continue on its journey to explore more near-earth asteroids. This is expected to happen on December 6 when it is close enough to Earth to drop its samples near Woomera which is located in southcentral Australia.

Scientists are interested in seeing what kind of materials a type-C asteroid will provide. Type-C asteroids are considered to be the most common type of asteroid making up nearly 75% of all known asteroids. Type-C asteroids are dark by nature due to the fact that they do not reflect much sunlight because of their high carbon makeup.

Asteroids were first classified as Type-C (dark and primarily containing carbon), Type-S (bright and primarily made up of silicas) and Type-U for those that did not fall into the first two classifications. Today, types-C and S have multiple subclassifications and are now joined by type-M asteroids that primarily consist of metals.

Asteroids like Ryugu provide a window into the creation of our solar system and contain not only the building blocks for our solar system but may also contain the building blocks for life on Earth and elsewhere. These bodies can also contain metals and other elements not only crucial to creating life as we know it, but also will be crucial in future space exploration and sustainability.

Hayabusa 2's mission has further solidified the ability to successfully reach a distant solar body, extract resources and return them to Earth. While this is not yet a commercially viable means of getting resources needed for our future, it is a step in that direction.

So, what is next for Hayabusa 2? With systems still functional, it will be slung back out into space to explore other solar bodies as well as how our solar system works. With continued success, it will reach its next asteroid target in 2031.

 

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