From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Hayabusa2
Mains level : Importance of the mission
- Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which successfully made its second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu has become the first ever space probe to gather material from beneath the surface of an asteroid.
- Launched in December 2014, the probe is a follow-up of Hayabusa, which explored the asteroid Itokawa in 2005.
- Hayabusa was the first mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth.
- The asteroid mission first reached Ryugu — a kilometre-wide asteroid, with a relatively dark surface and almost zero gravity — in June 2018 and made its first touchdown on the surface in February 2019.
- A month later the spacecraft hit the surface of Ryugu with a pellet and created a 10-metre-wide crater.
- It also exposed the materials under the asteroid’s surface that were so far protected from the harsh effects of cosmic rays and charged particles of solar wind blasting through space.
Structure of Ryugu
- Ryugu is a rubble-pile asteroid: A collection of rocks and dust held together loosely by gravity.
- Its surface is also strewn with an unusual number of boulders — more per unit surface area than any asteroid explored so far.
- For its latest mission, Hayabusa2 hovered outside the crater, without landing.
- It picked up samples of the material by shooting down a projectile from its one-metre long cylindrical horn, which then captured the fragments rebounding from the surface, stated the release.
- Hayabusa2 will deliver the material to Earth by the end of 2020, when it is expected to return to Earth.