The interplanetary station Hayabusa-2 sent to Earth the most detailed photograph of the surface of the Ryugu asteroid made during the landing of MINERVA-1 descent vehicles. It turned out that the surface layer of Ryugu consists of larger particles than the soil of the Itokawa asteroid, studied by the mission “Hayabusa”, according to a press release on the mission’s website.
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 successfully arrived to the asteroid on June 27 and came out on a stable 20-kilometer orbit around it. According to the plan, the scientific program of the mission will last for a year and a half, during which the apparatus 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 an explosive charge, will be able to study the composition of the upper layer of the asteroid’s soil, and also descend on its surface MASCOT descent modules (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) and MINERVA-Ⅱ 2. After taking a soil sample from the surface of Rigu, the station will travel back to Earth and drop the capsule with the asteroid substance in December 2020. More information about the mission, its tasks and tools can be found in our material “Gathering the past by bit” .
On September 21, 2018, the Hayabusa-2 station dropped to a height of 55 meters from the Ryūgu surface and dropped two small descent modules MINERVA-II 1. The Rover-1A and 1B modules have a diameter of 18 centimeters each, a height of 7 centimeters and a weight of about 1.1 kilograms. They are equipped with cameras, sensors for measuring soil temperature, optical sensors, an accelerometer and a gyro and are able to move around the surface of the asteroid due to the hopping mechanism. On September 22, the Earth came to confirm the successful landing of the modules, which are now in working order and send new photos taken during the movement on the surface of Ryūgu.
During the descent, when 64 meters remained to Ryugu, the orbiter could obtain the most detailed image of the surface of the asteroid, uneven and dotted with boulders of various sizes, with the ONC-T (Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic). In the future, another ONC-W1 camera received an image of a larger area from a distance of 70 meters from the surface of the asteroid. The predecessor Hayabusy-2, the mission of Hayabusa (or MUSES-C), which worked in 2003-2010 and investigated the near-earth asteroid of the It-class S-class (25143) , got the clearest image of its surface from a distance of 63 meters, , that, unlike Ryuge, the surface layer of Itokawa consists of smaller particles, ranging in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters.
“Hayabusa-2” is not the first or the last project to study the soil of small bodies of the Solar System. In July 2005, the study of the surface of the comet 9P / Tempel conducted a Deep Impact spacecraft , although, then, no ground was taken, and all observations were remote. In 2006 the descent capsule of the interplanetary station returned to Earth “Stardust” , which carried in itself the coma particles of the comet 81P / Wild , enclosed in an airgel. And in December of this year, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft should reach the asteroid Bennu and get a sample of its soil, which it will deliver to Earth by 2023.