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A Japanese Space Explorer Arrives At An Asteroid

The robotic explorer will spend about two months looking for suitable landing places on the uneven surface

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This computer graphics image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows an asteroid and asteroid explorer Hayabusa2.
This computer graphics image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows an asteroid and asteroid explorer Hayabusa2. VOA

A Japanese space explorer arrived at an asteroid Wednesday after a 3 1/2-year journey and now begins its real work of trying to blow a crater to collect samples to eventually bring back to Earth.

The unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft reached its base of operations about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the asteroid and some 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth, the Japan Space Exploration Agency said.

Over the next year and a half, the spacecraft will attempt three brief touch-and-go 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. The robotic explorer 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.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter. In photos released by JAXA, the Japanese space agency, it appears more cube-shaped than round. A number of large craters can be seen, which Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda said in an online post makes the selection of landing points “both interesting and difficult.”

The first touchdown is planned for September or October. Before the final touchdown scheduled for April-May, Hayabusa2 will send out a squat cylinder that will detonate above the asteroid, shooting a 2-kilogram (4.4-pound) copper projectile into it at high speed 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 at or near the crater to collect underground material that was blown out of the crater, in addition to the surface material from the earlier touchdowns.

astronaut
astronaut. Pixabay

The spacecraft will also deploy three rovers that don’t have wheels but can hop around on the surface of the asteroid to conduct probes. Hayabusa2 will also send a French-German-made lander to study the surface with four observation devices.

Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system. As such, they may help explain how Earth evolved, including the formation of oceans and the start of life.

Hayabusa2 was launched in December 2014 and is due to return to Earth at the end of 2020. An earlier Hayabusa mission from 2003 to 2010 collected samples from a different type of asteroid and took three years longer than planned after a series of technical glitches, including a fuel leak and a loss of contact for seven weeks.

Also read: Japanese Climber Dies on his Eighth Attempt to Climb Mt. Everest

NASA also has an ongoing asteroid mission. Its Osiris-Rex spacecraft is expected to reach the asteroid Bennu later this year and return with samples in 2023. (IANS)

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Nissan’s Former Chairman Seeks Bail

Ghosn and Kelly have denied all charges. Nissan said it regretted any concern caused to its stakeholders

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Nissan
A court sketch, drawn by Nobutoshi Katsuyama, shows ousted Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman Carlos Ghosn during an open hearing at Tokyo District Court in Japan, Jan. 8, 2019.(voa)

Nissan’s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn has requested his release on bail after being indicted in Tokyo Friday on two new charges, his lawyers said, as the once-feted auto executive awaits a lengthy criminal trial that could be as long as six months away.

Ghosn was the overlord of an alliance that included Nissan Motor, Mitsubishi Motors and France’s Renault, until his surprise November arrest and removal as chairman of both Japanese automakers sent shockwaves through the industry.

The former executive, lauded for rescuing Nissan from the financial brink two decades ago, was charged with aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008.

Ghosn, former Representative Director Greg Kelly and Nissan itself were also charged for understating Ghosn’s income for three years through March 2018. The three parties have been indicted for the same charge covering the years 2010-2015.

Ghosn and Kelly have denied all charges. Nissan said it regretted any concern caused to its stakeholders.

japan
Japan

Bail is rare

It is rare in Japan for defendants who deny their charges to be granted bail ahead of trial. Kelly posted bail on Christmas Day and is unable to leave Japan without special permission.

Ghosn’s lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, expects his client to be held until trial, which he said could begin in about six months.

If bail is granted, Ghosn, who is suffering from fever, according to his lawyer, would not likely be released until Tuesday given that Monday is public holiday.

Kelly, a Ghosn ally, was hospitalized for treatment of a pre-existing neck problem after his release and has since been discharged, said his lawyer Yoichi Kitamura.

“This second indictment for Kelly comes as no surprise as it merely makes what was a five year period for the first into eight years,” Kitamura said.

Kitamura said he expects Ghosn and Kelly to be tried together on the two charges of understating income, and that he will work closely with Ghosn’s legal team.

Nissan complaint

Also Friday, Nissan said it had filed a criminal complaint against its former leader.

The automaker, in a statement, said it filed the complaint “on the basis of Ghosn’s misuse of a significant amount of the company’s funds. Nissan does not in any way tolerate such misconduct and calls for strict penalties.”

Ghosn, 64, appeared in court Tuesday for the first time since his arrest, looking thinner and grayer. He denied the allegations, calling them “meritless” and “unsubstantiated.”

He said he had asked Nissan to temporarily take on his foreign exchange contracts after the 2008-2009 financial crisis prompted his bank to call for more collateral. He said he did so to avoid having to resign and use his retirement allowance for collateral.

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Ghosn’s lawyer Otsuru on Tuesday said Nissan had agreed to the arrangement on condition that any losses or gains would be Ghosn’s. Ghosn said the contracts were transferred back to him and that Nissan did not incur a loss.

On Thursday, the boards of Nissan and controlling shareholder Renault, where Ghosn remains chairman, met for an update on the matter. Nissan later said it remained committed to the alliance. (VOA)