Click For Photo: https://techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/minerva.jpg?w=439
The coolest mission you haven’t heard of just hit a major milestone: the Japanese Hayabusa 2 probe has reached its destination, the asteroid Ryugu, and just deployed a pair of landers to its surface. Soon it will touch down itself and bring back a sample of Ryugu back to Earth! Are you kidding me? That’s amazing!
Hayabusa 2 is, as you might guess, a sequel to the original Hayabusa, which like this one was an asteroid sampling mission. So this whole process isn’t without precedent, though some of you may be surprised that asteroid mining is essentially old hat now.
Mission - Mission - Hayabusa - Packs - Equipment
But as you might also guess, the second mission is more advanced than the first. Emboldened by and having learned much from the first mission, Hayabusa 2 packs more equipment and plans a much longer stay at its destination.
That destination is an asteroid in an orbit between the Earth and Mars named Ryugu. Ryugu is designated “Type C,” meaning it is thought to have considerable amounts of water and organic materials, making it an exciting target for learning about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and the history of this (and perhaps other) solar systems.
Years - Approach - Orbit - Asteroid - Summer
It launched in late 2014 and spent the next several years in a careful approach that would put it in a stable orbit above the asteroid; it finally arrived this summer. And this week it descended to within 55 meters (!) of the surface and dropped off two of four landers it brought with. Here’s what it looked like as it descended towards the asteroid:
These “MINERVA” landers (seen...
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