Mar, 2021 - By SMI
The probe which recently delivered samples from the Ryugu asteroid to Earth, is once again moving on to its next mission.
The mission is currently in the early stages, the team working on this project confirmed. On 5 January 2021, 6 A.M. GMT, the Hayabusa2 began powered navigation using 3 ion engines. The first destination of the extended mission is a 700 meter wide asteroid called 2001 CC21, which the probe is expected to fly past in 2026. Another comprehensive brush with yet another asteroid, 1998 KY26, is scheduled for 2031. The team also confirmed that neither of these missions involve sample collection. The estimated diameter of the 1998 KY26 is around 30 meters, making it considerably smaller than Ryugu and 2001 CC21. Characteristics and mechanisms of smaller space rocks or their role in collisions with the Earth are not well-researched and the team is hopeful that a close rendezvous with the 1998 KY26 would provide important data and insights.
In the Hayabusa2 briefing document, the team wrote about the ambitious extended missions and particularly the 1995 KY26 fly by which would be the first close observation of a celestial body smaller than 100 meters. During the extended mission, the Hayabusa2 probe will also carry out functions such as observing exoplanets, zodiacal light, which refers to the faint glow in Earth’s solar system generated by the sunlight reflecting off interplanetary dust. The following years are going to be more than just the extended mission as the research team has already begun assessing and characterizing the pristine samples weighing 5.4 grams from Ryugu. A complete and thorough investigation of this material is expected to provide important insights regarding the solar system and the role played by carbon-rich celestial bodies in the rise of life on Earth.
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