Japan's Hayabusa2 space explorer reaches asteroid to find signs of life

Xinhua
Japanese space explorer Hayabusa2 reached its intended destination on Wednesday near a small asteroid, roughly 300 million km from the earth, after traveling for more than 3 years.
Xinhua

Japanese space explorer Hayabusa2 reached its intended destination Wednesday near a small asteroid, roughly 300 million km from the earth, after traveling for more than three years, Japan's space agency said.

According to the agency, the 600-kg Hayabusa2, which was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan in December 2014, has experienced no problems throughout its journey totaling 3.2 billion km.

The space explorer is currently about 20 km above the small asteroid named Ryugu, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, said.

The agency said Hayabusa2 is scheduled to make three landings on the asteroid and collect rock samples and will stay close to Ryugu for one and a half years.

During this time, it will conduct a number of exploratory activities in an attempt to find clues about the solar system's evolution and the beginning of life itself, according to JAXA.

The unmanned space explorer is loaded with equipment and devices, including sensors and cameras, and will deploy these to study and monitor the asteroid's temperature, gravity and surface conditions, the agency said.

It also said it is equipped with three miniature rovers which can roam the surface of the asteroid and conduct close-up probes.

In addition, Hayabusa2's 2-kg "impactor" can be dropped to the asteroid's surface to expose and obtain fresh materials.

Hayabusa2's mission will be completed when it returns to the Earth in 2020 with the samples of rocks it has collected from Ryugu, which is thought, unlike the asteroid probed by its predecessor, to contain water and other materials that could possibly support life.


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