The interplanetary station Hayabusa-2 began the landing of MINERVA-Ⅱ1 descent vehicles on the surface of the Ryugu asteroid. Modules have already successfully separated from the orbiter at a height of 55 meters, now the mission team is waiting for confirmation of landing, reported ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) on the mission site.
The Hayabusa-2 automatic station was launched into space in December 2014. Its purpose is to deliver soil samples from the asteroid 162173 Ryugu , which belongs to the class C asteroid . The device 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 probe will probe the Ryuga from orbit, will descend onto its surface MASCOT module (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout), on which a spectrometer, magnetometer, radiometer and camera are installed. It is assumed that when approaching the Ryuga, the device will fire on the surface of the SCI device (Small Carry-on Impactor), consisting of a copper shell and an explosive charge, thereby enabling researchers 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” .
Previously, the station had already mapped the surface of the asteroid from a 20-kilometer orbit, as a result of which scientists from the mission team were able to build two three-dimensional models of the asteroid’s rotation. At the end of July, the device approached the surface of the Ryuga River to six kilometers, and in the beginning of August it dropped to a minimum height of 851 meters from the Ryuga surface in the framework of the experiment on studying the asteroid’s gravitational field and surveying its surface from close range. Also, a team of scientists recently laid out the results of the first month of work in orbit around the asteroid, among which is a thermal map of the surface of the Ryūgu and an estimate of the amount of rock that allows us to talk about the reality of a collision of an asteroid with another large object in the past. In the period from 10 to 12 September, the probe performeda test attempt to descend to the surface of the Ryuga, but it was unsuccessful due to problems with the lidar.
On September 19, Hayabusa-2 began preparations for a new rapprochement with the Ryugu surface for landing two small MINERVA-II descent modules on it. The lowering of the vehicle began on September 20, and the MINERVA-1 landing will take place today, September 21. The Rover-1A and 1B modules are hexagonal in shape and 18 centimeters in diameter, 7 cm in height and weighing about 1.1 kg each. Rover-1A is equipped with four cameras, Rover-1B – three, they are designed to create stereo images of the Ryugu ground. Modules are able to move around the surface of the asteroid due to the hopping mechanism and are equipped with sensors for measuring soil temperature, optical sensors, accelerometer and gyroscope. The mission team has already received confirmation of the successful separation of the modules from the orbiter at a height of 55 meters from the surface of the Ryūgu at 4:05 GMT and establishing contact with them,
“Hayabusa-2” is not the only mission with the return of soil samples from an asteroid. In December of this year the OSIRIS-REx device should reach the asteroid Bennu and get a sample of its soil, which it will deliver to the Earth by 2023.