For centuries now, mankind has always attempted to understand how the universe works, especially once they found out that our home planet, the Earth, is not the only planet that is out there.
Since then, scientists and almost every space experts from different countries have been trying to figure out if there is actually another planet in the solar system that is inhabitable.
The government has always been funding space expeditions for years not just to be able to identify and study the planets, but also other heavenly bodies. Just like what Japan has been doing. This time around they have recently sent an unmanned spacecraft.
It was last Wednesday when Japan’s space probe known as the Hayabusa2, finally arrived at its destination in space. It was more than 3 years ago when it left the Earth to be able to blow up a crater in space so it could collect some samples for mankind to study.
According to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, the unmanned spacecraft will attempt to make a touch-and-go landing all over the surface to collect that samples and it may take about a year and a half to do it.
This is exactly what the goal of this $146 million worth of experiment, and if it manages to collect samples and be able to bring them back to Earth, then experts will be able to examine the asteroid material that could answer how the solar system was created.
It wouldn’t be easy of course, that is because it could take the Hayabusa2 about 8 weeks to be able to find a place to land since almost every surface is uneven. The high surface temperatures make it even more difficult since it can only stay on the same surface for a couple of seconds.
If successful, the spacecraft will be back on Earth in 2020 or it takes longer than expected then the latest would be 2023, and the samples that has been collected will in a re-entry capsule.
The spacecraft’s target location is the Ryugu asteroid, which is a cube-shaped asteroid that has a couple of large craters on it. According to the project manager of the Hayabusa mission, Yuichi Tsuda, the landing points on the asteroid are very interesting but then again, it also makes it incredibly difficult.
The Hayabusa2 is expected to land around this fall, and that is when it would detonate the explosive to get the samples, once placed, the spacecraft would go to the other side of the asteroid and hide so that it could protect itself.
It needs to wait about two to three weeks to actually let all the debris from the asteroid explosion to be gone, and that will be the only time that the spacecraft could come out of hiding and get all the underground material that it needs. According to experts, tiny mistakes could actually mean a lot because then it would miss a great opportunity and it could ruin the entire mission.
In comparison with the previous Hayabusa, the spacecraft is of course considered to have an improved system of engines that even has an additional explosive device. This feature is said to be missing from the previous one, and it will be used to basically excavate the surface of the asteroid to be able to get the sample that is needed.
Historial First Spacecraft Return
The Hayabusa2 is obviously not the very first one to leave the Earth, in fact the original Hayabusa (which means Peregrine Falcon) was the one that was sent first by the JAXA or the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2003 and it came back in 2010, making it the very first one to collect the pieces that are known to be a billion years old. It took the Hayabusa 10 years and it eventually came back and landed in the Woomera Prohibited Area of South Australia.
Because of how long it took to get home when it was on its way back home, the rest of the spacecraft actually got separated from it, but it managed to bring home the rock that they wanted. This time around, the JAXA and also with NASA overseeing the mission as well, are hoping that the Hayabusa2 will be just as successful than the first one.