JAXA's Hayabusa2 Successfully Completes Second Risky Landing on Asteroid

The space craft will be returning to earth with samples from the asteroid later this year.
Donovan Alexander

How much do you know about those countless lonely asteroids scattered throughout our universe? Aside from an asteroid impact, causing the chain reaction that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, asteroids are very important to our overall understanding of the universe.

Asteroids give us more insight into the origins of life as well as the origins of our solar system. Even near-earth asteroids could be eventually mined for valuable metals. According to Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator on NASA's Dawn mission, "The materials in asteroids represent the building blocks of the planets."


In another historic moment, this past Wednesday, Japan's Hayabusa2 probe successfully landed on the  Ryugu asteroid

Japan's Hayabusa2: Sticking the Landing

JAXA's Hayabusa2 Successfully Completes Second Risky Landing on Asteroid
Source: JAXA

Launched by JAXA or the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in December of 2014, the mission aimed to collect samples from the half-a-mile in diameter asteroid. As mentioned above, Ryugu is a carbon-rich rock that could give us more insight into the history of our solar system. 

However, there is much more to this story. Last time  Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft was in the news is when it had blown a crater in Ryugu back in April. Using a host of explosives and a bullet-like projectile, Hayabusa2 was able to free up a lot of potential rock samples. After successfully landing on the asteroid, the spacecraft collected samples and returned to a safe position above Ryugu. 

Hayabusa2 will be making its way back to earth with its collected samples by the end of the year. 

Understanding the Mission

So why are we in space shooting asteroids? If you did not know already, Hayabusa2 already had landed briefly on Ryugu back in February of this year, again to collect samples. Yet, these materials have been exposed to the solar system's "weather."

The 6-10 foot deep crater made by Hayabusa2 will literally give researchers an in-depth look at the asteroid as well as offer clues to how other potential asteroids like Ryugu react to being struck by objects. 

The asteroid is also special because it is a carbonaceous, asteroid. This means that the asteroid is full of carbon molecules known as organics; amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Asteroids like these could have transported the necessary building blocks on Earth that led to life. 

The landing was both short and quick but was risky. Mission managers took a good amount of time assessing the risk of landing Hayabusa2 on the asteroid again.