Sunday, July 1, 2018 at 11:49AM
Drew Wolfe

Japan's Hayabusa2 Spacecraft Arrives At Its Asteroid Destination

"The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has made a successful rendezvous with the asteroid Ryugu, 177 million miles from Earth. Japan's JAXA space agency confirmed on Wednesday that the craft has taken up a position 12 miles off Ryugu. Up next for Hayabusa2: exploring the surface — and bringing a sample back to Earth."

"Hayabusa2 reached its destination 3 1/2 years after launching from Earth in late 2014. JAXA says the meetup went according to plan, as the craft used its thrusters to establish a constant distance from Ryugu, which can currently be seen zipping across the Gemini constellation."

"Japanese researchers will use Hayabusa2's current vantage point to study the asteroid and evaluate possible sites for collecting samples."

"'From a distance, Ryugu initially appeared round, then gradually turned into a square before becoming a beautiful shape similar to fluorite [known as the 'firefly stone' in Japanese],' said project manager Yuichi Tsuda. 'Now, craters are visible, rocks are visible and the geographical features are seen to vary from place to place. This form of Ryugu is scientifically surprising and also poses a few engineering challenges.'"


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