Unique 3.5-year space mission close to goal
TOKYO: A Japanese space probe arrived at an asteroid this week, after a 3.5 year journey, to undertake a unique experiment – blow a crater in the rocky surface to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.
The unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft reached its base of operations about 20km from the asteroid and 280 million kilometres from Earth on Wednesday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Jaxa, said.
Over the 18 months, the robotic explorer will attempt three brief landings to collect samples.
If the retrieval and the return journey are successful, the asteroid material could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.
The mission is challenging. Hayabusa2 will spend about two months looking for suitable landing places on the uneven surface. Because of the high surface temperature, it will stay for only a few seconds each time it lands. Any samples would be sent back in a re-entry capsule that is due to arrive at the end of 2020.
The asteroid, named Ryugu, is about 900m in diameter. In photos released by Jaxa, it appears more cube-shaped than round.
A number of large craters can be seen, which project manager Yuichi Tsuda said made the selection of landing points “both interesting and difficult”.
The first touchdown is planned for September or October. Before the final touchdown, in April or May, Hayabusa2 will send out a squat cylinder that will detonate above the asteroid, shooting a 2kg copper projectile into it to make a crater.
Hayabusa2 will hide on the other side of the asteroid to protect itself during the operation and wait another two to three weeks to make sure any debris that could damage the explorer has cleared.
It will then attempt to land to collect underground material that was blown out of the crater and surface material from the earlier touchdowns.
The spacecraft will also deploy three surface rovers which will conduct probes, as well as a FrenchGerman-made lander to study the surface. – AP/African News Agency/ANA
A man bathed in mud water in a paddy field on National Paddy
Day in Lele village, outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, on Friday. Nepal celebrated National Paddy Day with various events.