The Japanese Falcon landed in the distant Dragon Palace. The Japanese were the first in the world to collect material from under the asteroid surface. Their probe literally had seconds to do it.
The landing took only a few seconds, but it was enough. The Hayabusa2 probe previously fired a bullet that had pierced the surface of the asteroid. Now a special tube sucked in the debris that resulted from the impact.
The historic mission of the Japanese in space
“We have acquired fragments of the history of the Solar System,” said the Yabichi Tsuda, project manager of Hayabusa2, quoted by AP agency. “Nobody collected and brought material from under the surface of any place further away than the Moon,” he added.
Landing was not easy. The probe may have been hit and destroyed by asteroid rock chippings. It really started the day before, Wednesday, Japanese time (the landing took place on Thursday morning), when the Japanese space vehicle began descending towards the surface. Hanging about 30 meters above the asteroid, he found a place marked for landing. After sampling, it safely lifted off the surface of the asteroid.
Hayabusa2 has been around for several months. It had already made one landing – in February – when it took samples from the surface of the object. The Japanese space agency JAXA wants it to get closer to the asteroid again next week. The next challenge will be bringing the probe and samples to Earth. Hayabusa2 is expected to return home by the end of next year. In this case, the landing site is in Australia.
Scientists hope that thanks to the collected samples they will learn more about the history of the solar system, and maybe even the beginning of life.
The Japanese falcon has been flying for four years
Hayabusa, which means Falcon in Japanese, is the second probe that the Japanese used to collect samples from the asteroid. They did it for the first time in 2010. The current mission began in December 2014 . The probe was over the asteroid Ryugu in June 2018 . The cost of this venture is about 270 million dollars – says The Guardian.
Ryugu in Japanese means Palace of the Dragon. The name refers to a castle on the ocean floor from an ancient Japanese legend. The asteroid is located about 300 million kilometers from Earth. It is about 900 meters in diameter, has an exceptionally rocky surface and shows signs of organic compounds.
NASA is planning a similar mission to that of the Japanese. The agency wants to land on the Bennu asteroid.