An incredible new animation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Hayabusa2 spacecraft completing its second touchdown operation, on July 11.
The animation, which plays at 10 times the actual speed of the touchdown, illustrates the spacecraft touching down on, and then receding from, the asteroid Ryugu. Hayabusa2 took the video of the touchdown with its monitor camera, Cam-H, which is pointed past the craft's sampling mechanism (or sampler horn). Cam-H, which was created through a collaborative effort between JAXA and the Tokyo University of Science, was installed with the help of public donations.
The craft's sampler horn, which can be seen in the video pointed "downward," toward Ryugu, picked up new samples from the asteroid.
Prior to landing on the asteroid, Hayabusa2 dropped a bright, white marker onto Ryugu's surface. This helped mission staff to slowly and carefully land the craft in the correct spot.
This is a 10x speed animation captured with the small monitor camera (CAM-H) during 2nd touchdown. CAM-H was installed by public donation — thank you everyone! Image time: 2019/7/11 10:03:54 ~ 10:11:44 JST, at altitudes 8.5m ~ 150m. (📷 JAXA) https://t.co/ZrzegHABYU pic.twitter.com/owtaDxZx0mJuly 26, 2019
Upon touching down on Ryugu, the spacecraft fired a bullet (made of tantalum, a metal that wouldn't confuse scientists if it ended up in samples) into the asteroid, blasting up debris. Material from Ryugu made its way into Hayabusa2's sampler horn, and then the craft lifted back up, leaving the asteroid.
Hayabusa2 first touched down on Ryugu in February of this year, landing on the asteroid and then quickly bouncing away. In April, just a couple of months after this impressive maneuver, the spacecraft fired a copper plate attached to explosives into the asteroid, blasting away the surface to expose the material underneath.
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