Raumfahrt - JAXA´s Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa-2 Asteroid 1999 JU3 -Update-9



Hayabusa2 mission crew hail 'perfect' sample delivery in boost for Japan's space work

SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa -- Scientists and mission staff at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) expressed their joy and renewed enthusiasm as its space probe Hayabusa2 completed its round trip to the asteroid Ryugu and dropped a capsule believed to carry samples from the mission in the southern Australian desert.


Six years and 5.2 billion kilometers on from its launch, Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda hailed Hayabusa2's success at a Dec. 6 press conference held at JAXA's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, saying, "Its space and sample collection operations were perfect. We're really looking forward to opening the capsule. If I were to score it out of 100, I'd give it 10,000."

At around 2 a.m. that same day, the capsule's fireball was observed, and mission control lit up when its landing was confirmed. Immediately after, Tsuda said, "It was a beautiful atmospheric entry. We were all moved."

The operation was not without setbacks of the terrestrial kind, either. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, members of JAXA's collection team were caught in a city-wide lockdown in Australia after arriving in the country, and on the morning of Dec. 5, the day before pick-up, it rained at the landing site.

But the day the capsule came to Earth, skies were clear, and the fireball could be observed on its descent. The work to recover it also went smoothly. Officials involved in the operation expressed relief that the weather had been on their side.

Previous Japanese space probes have not fared so well. Among the difficulties faced, the probe Nozomi failed in its attempt to enter Mars's orbit, and the previous Hayabusa probe experienced a litany of troubles, while the Akatsuki probe failed one of its attempts to enter Venus's orbit.

Conversely, Hayabusa2's mission has all gone according to plan. Institute of Space and Astronautical Science Director General Hitoshi Kuninaka said, "Japan's space probes have entered the next stage. I want us to use this momentum to help us with the challenges of the next probe."

But the mission did confront problems. The asteroid Ryugu is covered in rocks, meaning there was nowhere on it for the probe to land safely. At the press conference, Tsuda reflected, "We were put on the edge of despair, but using our ingenuity we found a way forward. We learned that where there's a will, there's a way." He added, "I had never imagined that I'd feel this happy to see this day come."

As it took off for a different asteroid, Hayabusa2 managed to take a photograph of Earth. "We took it to mean that the probe is telling the Earth it's leaving. Looking at the image, which emphasizes the greenery on the Earth's surface, Japan looks so small. It's like it was leaving Japan while waving goodbye," said Tsuda.



After returning from an asteroid, what happens to the space capsule that landed in SA's outback?

After a six-year mission involving distances of more than 5.2 billion kilometres, a Japanese space capsule fell to Earth in a blaze of light over the South Australian outback on Sunday.

The mission's aim was to deliver samples from a distant asteroid to provide clues about the origin of the solar system and life on our planet.

The capsule is thought to be carrying the first sub-surface sample ever to be recovered from an asteroid in space.

The successful return of the Hayabusa2 capsule has been a cause for celebration among scientists.

An aerial view of the space capsule and its parachute surrounded by red dirt and bushes
Scientists retrieved the space capsule after it landed in the South Australian outback, near Woomera.(Twitter: JAXA)

But those eagerly wanting to know what's contained inside will have to wait a little longer yet.

Here's a breakdown of what we know so far, and what happens next.

From Earth to space and back

Launched from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre in 2014, it took four years for the Hayabusa2 spacecraft to reach its destination — the asteroid Ryugu.

Rotating Ryugu Supplied: JAXA(Gfycat)

Scientists said the asteroid was an example of the kind that may have struck the early Earth, delivering the water and organic materials that make our planet habitable.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) had previously launched Hayabusa1 to collect dust, but Hayabusa2 was the first mission to collect rock fragments from underneath the surface.

The spacecraft's long voyage back to Earth began in November 2019.

It successfully released a small capsule last week, sending it towards the Woomera Prohibited Area, more than 500km north of Adelaide.

Early on Sunday, the capsule briefly created a fireball as it re-entered the atmosphere 120 kilometres above Earth, streaking over northern South Australia in a blaze of light.

Locals in Coober Pedy, Alice Springs and Adelaide joined JAXA scientists — in South Australia and at the command centre in Japan — to watch the spectacle.

Scientists retrieved the capsule later that morning.

You view a blue starry evening sky as you view what appears to be long light streak cutting through it.
Japan's Hayabusa2 lit up the skies above South Australia early on Sunday morning.(Twitter: JAXA)

Where is the capsule now?

The capsule is currently inside a biosecurity bubble in the Woomera Prohibited Area.

Professor Ireland said there were three compartments — or "rooms" — inside the capsule, but they would not be opened until it returned to Japan.

Scientists wearing body suits crouching near the space capsule in the outback
JAXA scientists retrieved the space capsule on Sunday.(Twitter: JAXA)

Instead, a machine called a mass spectrometer on site at Woomera is being used in preliminary testing for gases, which could give an early indication of the types of material inside.

"This is a simple thing we can do without actually opening up the container.

"Helium and water and maybe some organics are the signatures that we really want to see coming off these fragments, if we have fragments or powders or whatever we've got.

"We just don't know yet."

A box containing a capsule recovered from space.
The space capsule will be sent to Japan, where it will be opened for analysis.(Twitter: JAXA)

What happens next?

The capsule is scheduled to be carefully loaded onto a charter flight at midnight tonight and taken directly to Japan.

More than 70 JAXA team members, who travelled to Australia for the space mission, will follow next week.

"The sample return capsule is in very safe hands … but our job in supporting JAXA will not be complete until we see the sample return capsule safely leave Australia and return to Japan," said head of the Australian Space Agency (ASA), Dr Megan Clark.

Dr Megan Clark, head of Australia's new space agency
Dr Megan Clark said scientists eagerly awaited findings from the mission.(ABC News)

Professor Ireland said he was hoping that when JAXA scientists opened the capsule, they would find "multiple-millimetre-type fragments" along with "a reasonable amount of dust".

"The container will be opened probably within a week or so," he said.

"There'll be some various tests and cleaning before it can be opened up properly and examined, and it's inserted into this large vacuum tank."

The capsule contains samples collected during the spacecraft's landing on Ryugu, and from an artificial "crater" created "by firing a projector into the surface", Professor Ireland said.

"The nice thing about that is we get this lovely sample of the original material, plus all the material on the surface that might be space-weathered."

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Duration: 29 seconds
Play Video. Duration: 29 seconds
Hayabusa2 fired an "impactor" into the Ryugu asteroid to stir up materials not previously been exposed to the atmosphere.

Those fragments could amount to as little as a single gram — but that is plenty for scientists to examine and analyse.

"We can pull out pieces, we can stick a microscope in there and see what we've got," Professor Ireland said.

"Preliminary examination is done in Japan and that will take place from about June next year, so the first stage of the analysis is to figure out what we've actually got and so that'd be done under curation at JAXA in Tokyo."

The contents of the capsule will then be shared between Japanese laboratories.

"If we get lots and lots of material it's actually quite tricky to go through and catalogue it all."

Mission accomplished?

Not by a long shot.

Dr Clark said the ASA was "thrilled" for the Japanese team and "all the work that's gone into this" so far.

"2020 has been a difficult year all around the world," she said.

You view a crowd of Japanese men celebrating while wearing lab coats and face masks in an office.
Project members celebrated the landing at JAXA mission control in Sagamihara, near Tokyo.(JAXA Via AP)

But the Hayabusa2 mission is still far from over.

The spacecraft has returned to interplanetary orbit, heading off on a new mission to another asteroid.

JAXA has said it plans to continue carrying out space landings at Woomera in partnership with Australian space authorities.

Quelle: abcNews


Hayabusa2 capsule in 'perfect condition' as Japan team prepares for analysisA Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency team member retrieves a capsule dropped by Hayabusa2 in Woomera, southern Australia, on Sunday. | JAXA / VIA AP

 A Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency team member retrieves a capsule dropped by Hayabusa2 in Woomera, southern Australia, on Sunday. | JAXA / VIA AP


The Japanese space agency said Sunday the capsule from its Hayabusa2 space probe was collected from the Australian desert in "perfect condition," hopefully containing samples from the Ryugu asteroid that could help explain the origins of life.

The capsule appeared as a bright fireball lasting several dozen seconds as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere before dawn, its protective heat shield glowing as it reached temperatures of approximately 3,000 degrees Celsius.



If the mission was successful, the capsule will contain two samples from the Ryugu asteroid, including the first subsurface asteroid sample ever collected. Scientists believe that organic matter and water existed on the asteroid when the solar system was created around 4.6 billion years ago.

"The capsule was in perfect condition. We're looking forward to opening it up," Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 project manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said at a news conference.

The deputy director general of JAXA's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Masaki Fujimoto, said during the same news conference that once collected from the desert, the capsule was carried by hand into a so-called quick-look facility to be cleaned and dismantled so the interior sample container could be exposed.

An analysis of the gases that may have been emitted from the asteroid material is expected to begin Monday.

Fujimoto said the team in Australia is anxious to perform the analysis as the presence of gases within the sample container would indicate that the asteroid samples were successfully collected.

Scientists hope primordial material believed to be contained in the samples will help further research into the origins of life on Earth and the evolution of the solar system.

The capsule, which was released from the space probe Saturday afternoon, landed in a desert near the Woomera Prohibited Area, a remote Australian military and civil aerospace facility that is also one of the largest land-based test ranges in the world.

The Hayabusa2 space probe made two landings on Ryugu to collect samples.

The first landing, in February 2019, saw the probe collect a surface sample from the asteroid. The second sample, collected in July the same year, is the first-ever subsurface sample from an asteroid and was extracted after an artificial crater was created by firing a copper projectile into the surface.

The two samples will provide scientists with a comparison of the composition of the asteroid above and below the surface.

Although Ryugu is believed to have undergone minimal change since the formation of the early solar system, scientists say materials below the asteroid's surface would not have experienced the same weathering and potential contamination from other meteorite impacts as those on the surface.

At the beginning of Earth's formation, the planet was entirely without water due to its close proximity to the sun. Scientists believe that once Earth cooled, water and organic matter were delivered to it by meteorites with a composition similar to Ryugu.


Hayabusa2's capsule, carrying the first extensive samples of an asteroid, is seen after it was collected in Woomera, Australia,  on Sunday. | JAXA / VIA REUTERS
Hayabusa2’s capsule, carrying the first extensive samples of an asteroid, is seen after it was collected in Woomera, Australia, on Sunday. | JAXA / VIA REUTERS

JAXA's recovery mission is being supported by the Australian Space Agency, which was established in July 2018 to develop the country's space industry.

"This is certainly our first joint (operation), where we're working on a mission with another country," agency head Megan Clark said in an interview. "It's quite exciting for us and exciting for our team to be able to support Japan."

"Also, we're learning a lot through all this. We're learning a lot for when we're the ones who are nervous because it will be our mission," Clark said.

The Hayabusa2 space probe was launched from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center in December 2014 and has traveled over 5 billion kilometers so far.

Unlike the original Hayabusa mission, the Hayabusa2 space probe will not return to Earth. Instead, it will continue on an extended mission to explore asteroid 1998KY26.

While the Hayabusa2 mission has so far proceeded smoothly, the coronavirus pandemic significantly disrupted JAXA's plans for the capsule recovery operation.

Travel restrictions have seen a reduced team of only 79 essential personnel making the trip to Australia from Japan.

Additionally, the team went through quarantine twice — once in Japan and again when they arrived in Australia. However, an unexpected coronavirus outbreak in the state of South Australia, where Woomera is located, saw the entire state go into a mandatory six-day lockdown, delaying preparations further.

Knowing that the team from Japan would be in isolation for two weeks on their arrival in Australia, Clark said the agency put together a "welcome pack" of local South Australian wines, sweets and hand creams for their colleagues.

"It's hard to do isolation, so we were just providing little gifts and food, and making sure they had everything they needed, so they didn't feel alone," she said.

Quelle: The Japan Times


Asteroid Ryugu Dust Delivered to Earth; NASA Astrobiologists Prepare to Probe It

On Dec. 6 local time (Dec. 5 in the United States), Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 dropped a capsule to the ground of the Australian Outback from about 120 miles (or 200 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. Inside that capsule is some of the most precious cargo in the solar system: dust that the spacecraft collected earlier this year from the surface of asteroid Ryugu.  


By the close of 2021, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, will disperse samples of Ryugu to six teams of scientists around the globe. These researchers will prod, heat, and inspect these ancient grains to learn more about their origins.


Among the teams of Ryugu investigators will be scientists from the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Researchers in the astrobiology lab use cutting-edge instruments that are similar to those used in forensic labs to solve crimes. Instead of solving crimes, though, NASA Goddard scientists probe space rocks for molecular evidence that can help them piece together the history of the early solar system.


“What we’re trying to do is better understand how Earth evolved into what it is today,” said Jason P. Dworkin, director of the Goddard’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory. “How, from a disk of gas and dust that coalesced around our forming Sun, did we get to life on Earth and possibly elsewhere?” Dworkin serves as the international deputy of a global team that will probe a sample of Ryugu in search of organic compounds that are precursors to life on Earth.


Video captured on Feb. 22, 2019 (JST) when Hayabusa2 first touched down on the surface of Asteroid Ryugu to collect a sample.
Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Ryugu is an ancient fragment of a larger asteroid that formed in the cloud of gas and dust that spawned our solar system. It is an intriguing type of asteroid that’s rich in carbon, which is an element essential to life.

When Dworkin and his team receive their share of a Ryugu sample next summer, they will look for organic compounds, or carbon-based compounds, in order to better understand how these compounds first formed and spread throughout the solar system.

Organic compounds of interest to astrobiologists include amino acids, which are molecules that make up the hundreds of thousands of proteins responsible for powering some of life’s most essential functions, such as making new DNA. By studying the differences in the types and amounts of amino acids preserved in space rocks scientists can build a record of how these molecules formed.

Dust from Ryugu, which is currently 9 million miles, or 15 million kilometers, from Earth, will be among the most immaculately preserved space material scientists have laid hands on. It’s only the second sample of an asteroid that has ever been collected in space and returned to Earth.


Before the Ryugu delivery, JAXA brought back tiny samples of asteroid Itokawa in 2010 as part of the first asteroid sampling mission in history. Prior to that, in 2006, NASA obtained a small sample from comet Wild-2 as part of its Stardust mission. And next, in 2023, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx will return at least a dozen ounces, or hundreds of grams, of the asteroid Bennu, which has been traveling through space and largely unaltered for billions of years.


“Our final objective is to understand how organic compounds formed in the extraterrestrial environment,” said Hiroshi Naraoka, professor of geochemistry at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, and the lead of the global Hayabusa2 team that will analyze Ryugu’s organic composition. “So we want to analyze many organic compounds, including amino acids, sulfur compounds, and nitrogen compounds, to build a story of the types of organic synthesis that happens in asteroids.”



After analyzing the makeup of Ryugu, scientists will get to compare it to Bennu, the site of a wildly successful sample grab by OSIRIS-REx, which briefly touched down on the asteroid’s surface on Oct. 20.


“The two asteroids have similar shapes, but Bennu appears to have a lot more evidence of past water and of organic compounds,” said Dworkin, whose lab also is due to receive a tenth of an ounce, or several grams, of Bennu. “It’ll be very interesting to see how they compare, given they came from different parent bodies in the asteroid belt and have different histories.”


Analyzing Asteroid Particles Takes a Lot of Practice


Analyzing Ryugu dust will be one of the most demanding projects Goddard astrochemists have tackled. They will have to work with a miniscule amount of sample. Hayabusa2 is expected to have collected no more than a few grams of dust (that’s about six coffee beans!) from Ryugu, although this is much more material than was returned from Itokawa. This tiny amount will be dispersed among many scientists, which means Dworkin and his colleagues will get only a fraction of the original sample — slightly more than a typical snowflake.


“We’ll be dealing with much smaller sample allotments than we typically work with when we analyze meteorites,” said Eric T. Parker, a Goddard astrochemist who works with Dworkin.


Speck of Murchison mounted onto gold foil, inside a glass ampoule
A zoomed-out image of a speck of Murchison meteorite (about 4 micrograms) mounted onto gold foil, inside a glass ampoule. This was taken as NASA Goddard astrochemists were about to execute their hot water extraction procedure to liberate any organic compounds that can dissolve in water.
Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Eric T. Parker

Parker said that the Goddard team, in collaboration with international colleagues, has been practicing working with tiny samples for more than a year. For example, they’ve analyzed dust grains from a carbon-rich meteorite called Murchison. Then, they used the identical technique to analyze a sample without any extraterrestrial material in it to make sure they could tell the difference between the two.


After Goddard scientists receive Ryugu dust, they will suspend the particles in a water solution inside a glass tube. They will then heat the solution to the temperature of boiling water, or 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius), for 24 hours in an attempt to extract any organic compounds that can dissolve in water.


The researchers will run the solution through powerful analytical machines that will separate the molecules inside by shape and mass and identify each kind.


“With really precious samples like Ryugu, of course you think, ‘I hope this test tube doesn’t break,’ or ‘I hope this reaction goes correctly,’” said Hannah L. McLain, a Goddard researcher on Dworkin’s Ryugu analysis team. “But at this point, we’ve fully established our technique to be sure nothing can go wrong and we are excited to analyze the real sample.”

Banner image caption: Artist's concept of a NASA spacecraft speeding toward a rendezvous with an asteroid. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Download image here.


Find out how NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will receive and process dust from Ryugu and prepare it for analysis by labs around the world. 

Quelle: NASA


Update: 9.12.2020


Hayabusa2’s asteroid dirt may hold clues to the early solar system

After landing safely on Earth, a capsule holding samples from Ryugu is in Japan for analysis


Hayabusa2’s sample return capsule was located in south Australia shortly before dawn local time on December 6. A helicopter crew found it with its parachute draped over a tree.


For the first time, scientists are about to get their (carefully gloved) hands on asteroid dirt so old it may contain clues to how our solar system formed and how water got to Earth.

A capsule containing two smidgens of dirt from asteroid Ryugu arrived in Japan on December 7, where researchers will finally get a chance to measure how much was collected. The goal of Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission was to collect at least 100 milligrams of both surface and subsurface material, and send it back to Earth.

“Hayabusa2 is home,” said project manager Yuichi Tsuda of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, at a news conference December 6, hours after the sample return capsule landed successfully in Woomera, Australia. “We collected the treasure box.”

Ryugu is an ancient, carbon-rich asteroid with the texture of freeze-dried coffee (SN: 3/16/20). Planetary scientists think it contains some of the earliest solids to form in the solar system, making it a time capsule of solar system history.

Hayabusa2 explored Ryugu from June 2018 to November 2019, and grabbed two samples of the asteroid (SN: 2/22/19). One came from inside an artificial crater that Hayabusa2 blasted into the asteroid’s surface, giving the spacecraft access to the asteroid’s interior (SN: 4/5/19). On December 4, the spacecraft released the sample return capsule from about 220,000 kilometers above Earth’s surface. The capsule created a brilliant fireball as it streaked through Earth’s atmosphere.

At a “quick look facility” in Woomera, gases the asteroid material may have emitted were initially analyzed. But the capsule won’t be opened until after it reaches the JAXA center in Sagamihara, Japan.

Hayabusa2 is the second mission to successfully return an asteroid sample to Earth. The first Hayabusa mission visited stony asteroid Itokawa and returned to Earth in 2010. Engineering and logistical problems meant that its return was years later than planned, and it grabbed only 1,534 grains of asteroid material (SN: 6/14/10).

For Hayabusa2, though, everything seems to have gone according to plan. The spacecraft itself still has enough fuel to visit another asteroid, 1998 KY26, which is smaller and spins faster than Ryugu. It will study how such asteroids might have formed, how they hold themselves together, and what might happen if one collided with Earth. The spacecraft will reach that asteroid in July 2031, although it won’t take any more samples.

Quelle: ScienceNews


Hayabusa2 Capsule Arrives at JAXA Facility in Japan

A capsule delivered by the Hayabusa2 unmanned probe that is believed to contain sand samples from asteroid Ryugu arrived at the Sagamihara Campus of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, on Tuesday, after being retrieved in Australia.

The capsule will be opened at a special analysis facility and observed and analyzed with a microscope and other devices for around six months.

A truck carrying the capsule arrived at the campus at around 10:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. GMT).

Project manager Yuichi Tsuda said: "I'm relieved. I'd like to say to Hayabusa2 that it did a great job to finish its 'errand.'"

If the capsule contains sand, it will be the first time that such material has been retrieved from a space rock since the first Hayabusa brought back sand from asteroid Itokawa in 2010.



Hayabusa2 capsule taken to JAXA lab


A capsule released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's space probe Hayabusa2 arrived at a lab near Tokyo, Japan on Tuesday. Officials held a news conference during which they thanked the public for warmly welcoming back the capsule.

The capsule is believed to contain samples from the Ryugu asteroid. It was retrieved after landing in an Australian desert on Sunday and arrived at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Tuesday morning.

Tsuda Yuichi, the project manager of Hayabusa2, said he was touched when he realized that the capsule had traveled more than 5 billion kilometers.

Kuninaka Hitoshi, the head of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, said that the coronavirus pandemic forced them to briefly consider postponing the return of the capsule.

But he said they succeeded as a result of their determination to continue despite the circumstances. He also said they hope to analyze the samples thoroughly in order to derive as much scientific value from them as possible.

Analysis of the samples, which could provide clues on the origin of life, is expected to start in June.

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