Watch Japan's Hayabusa2 Land on Asteroid Ryugu in This Exciting Video

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. 

Related: Pow! Japan's Hayabusa2 Bombs Asteroid Ryugu, Makes Crater

A composite image taken by Hayabusa2 right before touchdown on July 11, 2019. (Image credit: JAXA, Chiba Institute of Technology, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

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.

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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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.