Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission to the asteroid Ryugu is an ambitious one to begin with, and the team recently made the decision to up the stakes with a second touchdown on the space rock’s surface. Not only did all go as planned, but we now have the best shots of an asteroid’s surface ever to be sent back to Earth.
Hayabusa2 is a very, very cool mission. The basic idea is this:
- Fly to nearby asteroid
- Land and sample the surface
- Blast a crater into it with a space gun
- Land and sample the crater
- Send the resulting samples back to Earth
Fabulous, right? And the intrepid spacecraft has just completed step 4 earlier today, touching down and snapping some amazing pictures while it did its science. This one was taken at the very moment it hit the surface:
There was no guarantee this would happen, the JAXA team running the Hayabusa2 mission noted in a recent blog post. Any number of things could have resulted in a second touchdown being either too risky or not worth the trouble.