Sunday June 16, 2019
Home Lead Story A Japanese Sp...

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

0
//
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)

Next Story

Japan, China to Agree on Giant Panda Breeding Research

The signing is intended to showcase the continuing thaw in bilateral relations that have been frayed

0
Japan, China, Giant Panda, Breeding
Candidate zoos for a new giant panda have already been discussed and they include facilities in Miyagi and Hyogo prefectures. Pixabay

Japan and China are planning to cooperate on breeding research for giant pandas by signing a memorandum later this month when their leaders meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, the media reported.

The signing is intended to showcase the continuing thaw in bilateral relations that have been frayed over territorial and historical issues and paves the way for China’s future lease of another giant panda at the request of Japan, The Japan Times quoted sources as saying on Wednesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to make his first visit to Japan since he came to power in 2013 and a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being arranged on the sidelines of the June 28 and 29 summit.

According to the report, the memorandum will state that Japan’s Foreign Ministry and Environment Ministry and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration will cooperate over giant panda breeding.

Japan, China, Giant Panda, Breeding
Japan and China are planning to cooperate on breeding research for giant pandas. Pixabay

It will also enable the two countries to jointly cope with diseases and other breeding problems faced by giant pandas, including those already leased to Japan.

Giant pandas from China are seen as symbols of bilateral friendship. There are now 10 giant pandas in Japan, including leased animals and their offspring.

Three of them reside at the Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo, six live at Adventure World in Wakayama prefecture and one is a resident of Kobe Oji Zoo in Hyogo prefecture.

Most recently, the loan period for giant panda cub Xiang Xiang at Ueno zoo was extended until the end of next year. Beijing has ownership of the cub, born in 2017 at the zoo, and the animal was originally due to be returned to China this month, The Japan Times said.

Also Read- Asus ZenFone Ban Case: Asus Says it will Resolve Issue with Court, Sales Remain Unaffected

The envisioned agreement “will add impetus to efforts to secure the lease of another giant panda”, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

Candidate zoos for a new giant panda have already been discussed and they include facilities in Miyagi and Hyogo prefectures.

The first giant pandas came to Ueno zoo in 1972 to commemorate the normalization of bilateral ties. In 2011, China expressed a willingness to lease more giant pandas to Japan but it did not materialize. (IANS)