The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 asteroid probe is slated to perform a Pinpoint Touchdown – Target Marker operation from May 28-30.

Preparation for the descent above asteroid Ryugu will take place on May 28 and the spacecraft will start the descent on May 29. On the same day, the spacecraft’s speed will be reduced and the descent will reach an altitude above the space rock of about 115 feet (35 meters) on May 30, and then to roughly 33 feet (10 meters), the lowest point.

Surface of asteroid Ryugu around the artificial crater. The target marker will be dropped in area CO1, near area SO1.
Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST

A highly reflective target marker will be separated just before the lowest altitude is reached. That marker on the asteroid’s surface is prelude to an attempted second sample extraction mission.

The spacecraft will then start to rise and return to a pre-descent home position on May 31.

Credit: JAXA

Aborted maneuver

This maneuver was first attempted May 14-16.

Hayabusa2 dropped to an altitude of about 164 feet (50 meters) before autonomously aborting the descent. This abort by the spacecraft was due to an incorrect distance measurement by the laser altimeter (LIDAR), therefore the target marker could not be dropped.

Despite this, it was possible to image around the previously created artificial crater at low altitude.

Credit: JAXA

In April, using a Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), Hayabusa2 created an artificial crater on the asteroid’s surface. The blast tossed up material from within the object and Hayabusa2 operators hope to snag specimens from that area for later analysis.

Leave a Reply