The Japanese Space Agency has declared the exploration phase of the Hayabusa2 mission over. Tomorrow, the overpowering spacecraft leaves Ryugu and returns to Earth to bring, hopefully, its asteroid samples.
After a year and a half exploring the Ryugu asteroid, it's finally time for JAXA's Hayabusa2 spacecraft to return home.
Tomorrow at 10:05 Japanese time (November 13), the probe receives instructions to abandon the Ryugu system, reports the AFP. Hayabusa2 was supposed to free himself from the gravity of the asteroid on 1
] "I am half sad, half determined to do our best to bring the probe home," Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda told reporters earlier this week, AFP reports. "Ryugu has been at the heart of our everyday lives for the last year and a half." [Luckilytheone-yearjourneyhome is much shorter than the 3.5 years that Hayabusa2 took to reach the asteroid. Earth and Ryugu are now closer together in their respective orbits than in 2014, when the asteroid was nearly 300 million kilometers from Earth.
Hayabusa2 started this summer with boxing for the home when he put the sample chamber in his reentry capsule. Unlike its predecessor, the spaceship Hayabusa2 will not burn in the earth's atmosphere. Instead, the samples are dropped once on Earth, where they are expected to land in the South Australian desert (JAXA is currently negotiating with the Australian government to iron out some important details, including the permission to reintroduce the capsule in the restricted Woomera territory). Hayabusa2 remains in space where it can be recycled for another asteroid mission.
JAXA scientists expect the samples to contain parts of carbon and organic compounds. By studying these samples, the scientists hope for new insights into the composition of the asteroids and their formation about 4 billion years ago in the early days of the solar system.