JAXA launched the asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 on 3 December 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Hayabusa2’s target is the 900meter wide carbonaceous asteroid “1999 JU3.” This C-type asteroid is expected to contain organic material and water. Hayabusa2 will provide knowledge about the origin and evolution of the planets, in particular the Earth, and life. It will arrive at the asteroid in mid 2018, stay there for 18 months for remote sensing, deploy a small lander and rover, collect surface and subsurface material from the asteroid, and finally return to the Earth at the end of 2020. Hayabusa2 will be a world’s first asteroid sample return from a C-type asteroid.
Hayabusa2 was built on the lessons learned from the original Hayabusa mission with numerous improvements in its deep space round trip technology to advance mission robustness and results. Furthermore, Hayabusa2 carries new equipment such as the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) which creates an artificial crater on the asteroid, and the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT). The 10 kilogram MASCOT lander, developed by DLR in cooperation with CNES, will perform in-situ investigation of the asteroid surface enabling intense scientific research.
Hayabusa2 is part of the ISECG Global Exploration Roadmap and contributes to extending human reach to unknown frontiers and to bringing new knowledge of possible human destinations. NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is scheduled to launch in 2016, heading to a carbonaceous asteroid “Bennu.” It is expected that the results of both asteroid missions will complement each other and contribute significantly to the international endeavour of exploring celestial bodies, the Moon and Mars.
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