A Japanese spacecraft is returning back to Earth. And with samples of a nearby asteroid. For over a year, an unmanned Japanese spacecraft has been taking samples of the asteroid Ryugu near Earth. It captured images, blasting a crater in it, and firing a “bullet” to remove some particles.
Now, after traveling for over 180 million miles, Hayabusa2 is now coming back to Earth with valuable data and soil samples after a yearlong journey.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency hopes to use the material to explore the origins of the Earth’s ocean and other planets.
As it slowly from the asteroid Ryugu, the spacecraft has been taking real-time photos of the asteroid as it departs. This will continue until November 18.
Ryugu is a diamond-shaped asteroid estimated to be 3,000 ft wide. It orbits around the Earth for tens of millions of miles away. Hayabusa2’s travel, which began in 2014, is the world’s first return mission of a C-type asteroid.
This is occurring at the same time as NASA’s own asteroid sample return mission. OSIRIS-Rex, which is expected to return to Earth in 2023.
Above all, this can provide both agencies a chance to exchange ideas and compare their findings.