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Exclusive: Hayabusa2 asteroid probe to take up new mission

  • January 9, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 4:18 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Jan. 9 (Jiji Press)–The Hayabusa2 unmanned asteroid probe of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, plans to take up another asteroid mission after the envisaged year-end completion of the ongoing project, Jiji Press has learned.

JAXA’s team managing Hayabusa2 projects will soon decide the new target asteroid after considering technical conditions for and scientific values of the new mission, informed sources said.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft left the asteroid Ryugu in November last year after completing tasks including creation of the world’s first artificial crater on an asteroid.

It is scheduled to drop a capsule containing sand collected from Ryugu when it approaches Earth around the end of this year. The capsule will be retrieved, while Hayabusa2 will continue on its voyage using its chemical engine, according to the sources.

The new mission will offer a “valuable opportunity to develop a challenging management skill” as Hayabusa2 is seen containing sufficient fuel to keep on traveling if the current mission is completed as planned, a member of the JAXA team said.

Hayabusa2 is expected to have enough fuel to approach Jupiter after the Ryugu mission.

But the JAXA team concluded that Hayabusa2 should conduct close-up observations of an asteroid located between Earth and Mars, including a possible landing on it, in view of the capabilities of the spacecraft’s monitoring equipment and solar cell, the sources said. Ryugu is also located between the two planets of the solar system.

The team has picked 354 candidate asteroids and other astronomical objects located relatively close to Earth. It found that several asteroids can be reached in six years at the earliest if Hayabusa2 performs a swing-by using the gravity of Earth and Venus.

Other candidate targets for the new project include an asteroid Hayabusa2 can get to in 2029 if it conducts a swing-by around Venus in 2024.

The observation results of Japan’s Venus probe Akatsuki would become comparable to photos to be taken by Hayabusa2’s infrared camera during the possible mission, according to the team.

The team is planning to propose the next target asteroid from among those that are accessible in around 10 years, the sources said.

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