Scientists are getting ready to welcome Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which is going to return to the earth on 6th December 2020 after spending six years in space. As per the report, it will contain a cargo loaded with 100 milligrams of unbelievably precious and rare matter from the surface of asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft will drop the capsule containing the sample to the earth and will go back to visit more asteroid targets. Astronomers have said that the return of Hayabusa2 will be considered a remarkable achievement in space science. It has completed a journey of a total of 5.24 billion kilometers in 6 years. Asteroid Ryugu, which is formerly known as JU3 is located on an elliptical orbit. It carries the Ryugu asteroid inside the earth’s orbital path around the sun and out as far as Mars’ orbit. Scientists have planned the trip of the Hayabusa2 after evaluating the location of the asteroid in the future. They have plotted a path using earth’s gravity for a burst of acceleration. Plotting this path has been necessary for spacecraft to reach directly to its destination.
Scientists have ensured that the spacecraft touches down the surface of the asteroid two times, collects the samples both times, and jumps off the asteroid again before returning to the location where the earth would by that time its return journey will be over. The spacecraft is currently on that home stretch. The capsule collection team has reached the desert town of Woomera, in the South Australian desert, where the spacecraft is expected to reach. Scientists have been rehearsing the capsule retrieval process. They are testing the technology as well, which will be used to track the incoming capsule. Preliminary team members as well have reached at Woomera Royal Australian Air Force base after clearing their 2 weeks COVID19 quarantine period.
Apart from Hayabusa2, only one mission has effectively returned with an asteroid sample to the earth. JAXA’s original Hayabusa mission to asteroid Itokawa has come back with a sample in 2010. However, the sampling device has broken down midway. Therefore, only a few micrograms of samples have been brought back home. A hundred milligrams of sample is considered an absolute wealth of material. Scientists are planning to conduct detailed tests with the help of these samples. Astronomers believe that Ryugu has saved some of the purest materials in the solar system, as it is an ancient carbonaceous asteroid. It has been formed around 4.5 billion years ago. A tiny sample of the asteroid will be able to reveal some major facts about the early days of the solar system. It will create a brilliant fireball formed due to the heat of atmospheric entry, as the capsule will descend towards the location.