For over a year now, a small unmanned spacecraft made in Japan kept sampling the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, taking images of its surface, carving a little crater in it and even launching a “bullet” into its outer shell to dislodge particles.
The spacecraft, known as Hayabusa 2, traveled about 180 million miles and is now on its way back home carrying precious data and soil samples.
The target of the project
Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency aims to utilize the samples to analyze the origins of the planets and the source of the oceans of our planet.
The spacecraft performed admirably and now, as it travels back to Earth, it’s taking pictures of Ryugu and it will do so until November 18.
Ryugu is an asteroid less than 3,000ft wide, diamond-shaped, orbiting millions of miles away from our planet. Hayabusa2’s venture began in 2014 and it marks the milestone of being the first sample return mission to a C-type asteroid.
NASA is also running a similar mission, under the name of “OSIRIS-Rex” and their spacecraft is expected to return to Earth in 2023.
The resulting overlap is a great opportunity for both space agencies to analyze, compare and exchange samples, according to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. This would perhaps benefit the entire world and might lead to amazing findings regarding the origins of the solar system itself. Who knows what other mysteries could be solved thanks to the samples brought from outer space?