The international team of scientists, part of the team of the Hayabusa-2 interplanetary mission, has selected ten candidates for the landing site for the descent module MASCOT. The landing on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu is scheduled for early October, according to press releases ( 1 , 2 ) on the websites of the French Space Agency (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
The automatic interplanetary station Hayabusa-2 was launched into space on December 3, 2014 and is intended for delivery of soil samples from the near-earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu , which belongs to the class C asteroid . The device has successfully arrived to the asteroid on June 27 and came out on a stable 20-kilometer orbit around it. In the next year and a half, the device will explore the Ryuga from orbit, and during the approach to it, it will be fired on the surface by a SCI device (Small Carry-on Impactor) consisting of a copper shell and explosive charge, thus the researchers will have an opportunity to study the composition of the upper layer of the asteroid soil . After taking a sample of soil from the surface of Rigu station will go back to Earth and drop the capsule with the substance of the asteroid in December 2020. More information about the mission, its tasks and tools can be found in our material “Gathering the past by bit” .
Another mission of the mission will be the landing of several descent vehicles – MASCOT ( Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout ) and three small MINERVA-II, which will be dropped from the side of the orbiter during rapprochement with the asteroid. They are designed to study the physical and chemical properties of the surface layer of the soil. The largest of them is MASCOT, having a mass of ten kilograms and dimensions of 30 × 30 × 20 centimeters. The payload consists of four scientific tools: hyperspectralmicroscope, camera, radiometer and magnetometer. The rechargeable battery should ensure the functioning of the module on the Ryūgu surface for 12-16 hours. MASCOT can move around the asteroid by jumping and is equipped with two antennas, providing data transfer rates up to 37 kilobits per second.
At the end of July, the apparatus approached the surface of the Ryuga River to six kilometers, and in the beginning of August made the descent to a minimum height of 851 meters from the surface of the Ryūgu. The final approach was carried out within the framework of the study of the gravity field of the asteroid, as well as to evaluate its properties in selecting the landing pad for the descent module MASCOT, which will take place at the end of August. The very landing of the module is scheduled for October 3, 2018. On 14 August, 40 scientists and engineers from France, Germany and Japan met to conduct a preliminary analysis of the collected data, resulting in ten candidates for the role of the site of the module’s landing. The main criteria for the final determination of the landing site will be the minimization of the probability of damage to the module during descent and landing, the presence on the surface of fresh (by geological measures)
Scientists expect that the module will be able to tell a lot about the asteroid and its features, for example, boulders covering its surface. Where did they come from, what is their structure and composition, are they in the ground or simply lie on the surface? Are they fragments of the Ryūgu subsoil or fragments arising from the collision of two bodies? MASCOT should help to find answers to these and other questions.Earlier, we talked about where an asteroid-exile was found in the solar system , how an immigrant asteroid settled in Jupiter’s orbit and how the “blanket” of organic substances protected the interstellar asteroid from the Sun.