Monday , June 27 2022

Hayabusa-2 has returned to Earth



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One year – this is how long it took for the Japanese space probe to return to Earth. But Hayabusa-2 has been in space for much longer. It was launched on December 3, 2014, after several months of testing by Japan’s Aero Space Exploration Agency.

After six years of mission, she has just landed in the southern Australian desert, according to “The Guardian” reports.

People gathered at the site of the probe return campaign, supervised by scientists. As Hayabusa-2 touched the Earth, they shouted and celebrated. “Hayabusa-2 looked like a fireball, it looked like a star falling to Earth,” The Guardian said.

“Mechanical flea” in space

Purpose of the mission? Explore the small Ryugu asteroid (only 900 m in diameter), discovered relatively recently, in 1999. It belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids, whose average distance from the Sun is slightly larger than that of Earth, but whose orbit intersects with our planet’s orbit. Ryugu is currently on the other side of the Sun to Earth, nearly 300 million km separates us.

Hayabusa’s task was to take samples of the asteroid and send them to Earth. He collected data and pictures using “mechanical fleas”, mobile robots that jumped across Ryugu’s face. They can hardly be called strays because they do not have wheels or tracks. This technique is due to the fact that the asteroid is small and has a negligible gravitational field. The “mechanical fleas” twins are called MINERVA-II1A and MINERVA-II1B, which stands for “Micro Nano Experimental Robot Vehicle for Asteroid”. They are small, 18 cm by 7 cm in size and weigh only 1 kg. On an asteroid surface, they weigh about a quarter of a gram. These are the first ever mobile robots on an asteroid.

The samples were taken from the dust created by the projector launch into the asteroid. The Japanese were counting on the Hayabusa-2 to collect about 10 grams of matter this way.

Now scientists will deal with the space material. The samples are intended to help answer the fundamental questions of where life came from and how the universe was formed.



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