Inside Japan’s daring 10-year mission to visit ancient asteroid Ryugu
Really interesting article from CNet about Hayabusa2 and Japan’s space exploration. They detail the decades long planning and the ups, downs and oddballs of the mission.
Over the past six years, Hayabusa2 has achieved an extraordinary engineering triumph, filled with exhilarating firsts. It visited the dark, enigmatic Ryugu, an asteroid orbiting between Earth and Mars, and landed hopping robots on its surface. It imaged the exterior of the asteroid in exquisite detail and blasted a hole in its side with a copper cannonball. But the mission’s masterstroke was sampling material from that wound it created in Ryugu’s side — the first time a spacecraft has snatched rock from beneath an asteroid’s surface.
The spacecraft’s achievements are some of the most valuable in the history of deep space exploration, akin to NASA’s feats of landing rovers on Mars or exploring Pluto and its moons up close. On a smaller budget than NASA’s, with a much smaller team, Japan wrote its way into space history. Yet for the mission to be considered a complete success, the team must land Hayabusa2’s sample capsule safely back on solid ground.
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