Japanese spacecraft The Yabusa-2 lands a piece from the asteroid Ryogo in Australia

his is the first mission in history to return to Earth significant ground samples from a celestial body other than the moon

On Saturday, December 5, at 19:30 Israel time, a fireball-like body will illuminate my name in Australia. The bone will move southwest. 120 km and a few minutes later, at about 19:47, the “fireball” will deploy parachutes and land safely at the Australian Air Force Range in Womera . A brilliant engineering and technological operation by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), which has lasted exactly six years since launch.

The Yabusa 2 (Japanese: “Wandering Falcon”) was launched on December 3, 2014. After a 300-million-kilometer journey in space, the spacecraft reached the asteroid Ryogo in 2018 (“Dragon Palace” in Japanese folklore), then dropped three guns and the lab on it. The MASCOT – whose mainframe is manufactured by the Israeli company Ramon Spice , with the support of the Israeli Space Agency. The samples on Saturday, scientists from all over the world will pounce on them as the origin of much loot.

 asteroid samples

The Yabusa 2 is the Japanese space agency’s second swatch mission. In 2005, its predecessor, the Hayabusa 1, arrived on an asteroid called the Itokwa – but a series of technical glitches caused both the Rover and the lander to miss their target and the firing mechanism designed to collect dust from inside the asteroid failed. Eventually, after missing the return window to Earth and being sent to orbit the sun for a few years, in 2010 the storage compartment of the Yabusa 1 landed, also in Womera, Australia – and it turned out that the spacecraft managed to collect only 1,500 grains of dust. A similar amount was returned by NASA’s Stardust a few years earlier, in 2006, when it returned as a gram from the comet Wilde 2. In other words, the Yabusa 2 would be the first mission in history to return significant ground samples from a non- lunar celestial body to Earth .

As a rule, asteroids like the Rio C type, i.e. hydrocarbon asteroids, are a “black box” to the beginning of the solar system . These asteroids are rich in water and organic compounds, and according to one belief – they provided the young Earth with some of the water we see today in the oceans, and possibly also the building blocks for life.

Moreover, Rigo is an Apollo asteroid, meaning an asteroid whose orbit crosses the Earth’s orbit. As mentioned, when the Jebusa 2 arrived in Ryogo in 2018, it was about 300 million km from Earth. Today it is only about 12 million km away. In the very distant future an asteroid like Ryogo could collide in the country – so it is important to understand its internal composition, in case our descendants have to deal with such a threat, whether by exploding or deviating from its orbit.

And finally, hydrocarbon asteroids abound in precious metals . If we had managed to land the entire Ryogo in Australia, it would have been worth $ 80 billion in nickel, iron and cobalt. The data collected by the Yabusa 2 – and which will be collected later from the samples it returned – may be valuable to asteroid mining companies.

But the Yabusa 2 mission will not end on Saturday. After dumping the sample capsule into Earth’s atmosphere, the Japanese space agency plans to send the spacecraft to a new destination. Hayabusa 2 has another 30 kg of xenon fuel, which should be enough for a flying flight (without returning samples of course) near the asteroid KY26 1998. This asteroid is especially interesting, as it rotates very fast on its axis (fast rotator) and its shape is almost counting Perfect – and no spacecraft has ever visited such an asteroid.In addition, like the Ryogo, the small KY26 1998 is an Apollo asteroid containing precious metals.The Hyabusa 2 is expected to arrive in 2031.

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