The Hayabusa2 Mission
Hayabusa2 is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission sent to study and collect samples from the carbonaceous asteroid 162173 Ryugu. Hayabusa2 achieved several milestones, including being the first mission to deploy and operate rovers on the surface of an asteroid, and being the first mission to successfully return carbonaceous asteroid material to Earth. The spacecraft is equipped with several instruments including Near-Infrared Spectrometer, Thermal Infrared Imager, Multi-band Imager, Laser Altimeter, Microscopic Imager and Separation Camera. The MASCOT Lander is equipped with MicrOmega Infrared microscope, Magnetometer, Radiometer and a Wide-Angle Camera.
This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2019, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 kilometers). Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.
Hayabusa2 launched on December 3, 2014 from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on an H2A rocket. The spacecraft arrived at Ryugu on June 27th, 2018. Two Minerva-II rovers (1A and 1B) were deployed on September 21, 2018; on October 3, 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander was deployed.
Officials successfully retrieve a 16 kg capsule that contains sample from the asteroid Ryugu. (Courtesy: JAXA)
On February 22, 2019, sampling took place using a tantalum projectile that dredged material into a collection horn. The second sampling involved the deployment of the SCI (small carry-on impactor) on April 5, 2019 to expose subsurface material; this exposed regolith was then sampled on July 11, 2019. On November 13, 2019, the Hayausa2 Spacecraft departed Ryugu and began its return journey to Earth. On December 6, 2020, the sample return capsule landed at the Woomera Test Range in Western Australia and was transported to the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center (ESCuC) in Sagamihara, Japan. A total of 5.4 g of Ryugu regolith was collected. As part of an international sample exchange agreement between NASA and JAXA, 10% of the Ryugu asteroid samples were delivered to NASA's Astromaterials Curation facility in Houston, Texas by JAXA. On November 30, 2021, NASA received 23 millimeter-sized grains and 4 containers of even finer aggregate material from Ryugu totaling 540 mg of sample. In return, JAXA will obtain a portion of asteroid 101955 Bennu samples collected by the OSIRIS-REx mission, which is set to return on September 24, 2023. While samples have been returned to Earth, The Hayabusa2 mission is still in progress. This mission will next rendezvous with a 30-meter diameter asteroid, 1998 KY26, in 2031.