The MA-9 spot on the asteroid Ryugu, where the MASCOT lander of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will land on October 3, 201
Credit: JAXA / DLR
We now know where a lander of the Japanese asteroid probe will land this October.
The mobile asteroid surface scout (MASCOT) of the spacecraft Hayabusa2 will land at a location in the southern hemisphere of the asteroid Ryugu called MA-9. Officials announced today (August 23).
MA-9 prevailed over nine other finalists for offering the best combination of scientific potential and accessibility, MASCOT team members said. [Japan’s Hayabusa2 Asteroid Sample-Return Mission in Pictures]
"From Our Selected landing site means we can guide MASCOT engineers to the surface of the asteroid in the safest way, while scientists can make the best use of their various instruments," says MASCOT Project Manager Tra -Mi Ho from the DLR Institute of Space Systems, said in a statement. (DLR is the German Aerospace Center, which operates MASCOT with the support of the French space agency CNES.)
MA-9 features relatively fresh, flawless surface material that, unlike other parts, is not exposed to long cosmic rays was from the 3000 feet wide (950 meters) asteroids team members said. And Hayabusa2 will drop three small rovers on parts of the northern hemisphere of space rock, a southern location for the 22 lb. (10 kg) MASCOT will give the mission a greater range of space rock, they added.
In addition, MA-9 is not as boulder-like as most other Ryugu regions. That does not mean that there will be a breeze on October 3rd.
"But we are also aware of this: there seems to be large boulders on most of Ryugu's surface and barely [any] flat regolith surfaces," added Ho. "Although scientifically very interesting, this is also a challenge for a small lander and for sampling."
The $ 150 million Hayabusa2 mission started in December 2014 and arrived in Ryugu on June 27 this year. If all goes to plan, the spaceship will examine the large asteroid out of orbit for 16 more months, and descend several times to collect samples of Ryugu material.
Meanwhile, MASCOT and the three tiny, skipping rovers – known as Minerva-II-1a, Minerva-II-1b and Minerva-II-2 – collect a wealth of information about the asteroid from its surface. (Minerva-I flew aboard Japan's first asteroid sampling mission, the original Hayabusa, which returned grains of space rock Itokawa in 2010 to Earth.)
Hayabusa2 Orbiter to Depart Ryugu in December 2019 Asteroid Samples Mission will come to Earth one year later, in December 2020.
Hayabusa2 is not the only asteroid sampling project underway. The NASA OSIRIS-REx mission (Origin, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer), totaling $ 800 million, is approaching the asteroid Bennu and is scheduled for orbit this December around the 1,650-foot (500m) rock reach . OSIRIS-REx samples are expected to land on Earth in September 2023.
Both Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx aim to help scientists better understand the composition and structure of asteroids, the early history and evolution of the solar system, and the role of space rocks in facilitating life on Earth.
Providing pristine samples of asteroid material on Earth will allow researchers to address such issues efficiently and effectively, team members of both missions said. Scientists can do much more experimentation and study with well-equipped laboratories around the world than a robotic spacecraft alone could do.