Hayabusa 2 spacecraft reaches asteroid Ryugu

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

On Tuesday, scientists successfully used the Lidar instrument to measure the distance from Hayabusa to the asteroid Ryugu for the first time.

Ryugu is a relatively primitive C-type asteroid, rich in organic and hydrated minerals and combined with water. Studying the dynamics of Ryugu will provide insights into the molecular mix that contributed to the origin of life on Earth.

The onboard Lidar (light detection and ranging) instrument is used partly as a navigation sensor for rendezvous, approach, and touchdown. It illuminates the target with pulsed laser light to measure variable distances between the two objects.

Associate professor Dr. Yoshikawa of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) said Ryugu’s shape was unexpected.

He said asteroids with this general diamond shape tended to be fast-rotating, completing one revolution every three or four hours. However, Ryugu’s spin period is relatively long – about 7.5 hours.

“Many scientists in our project think that in the past the spin period was very short – it rotated very quickly – and the spin period has slowed down. We don’t know why it slowed down, but this is a very interesting topic,” Yoshikawa told BBC News.

Hayabusa 2 will spend about a year and a half surveying the 900m-wide space rock, which is about 290 million km (180 million miles) from Earth.

During this time, it will aim to deploy several landing craft to the surface, including small rovers and a German-built instrument package called Mascot (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout).