An artist rendering of the Hayabusa spacecraft in space near Earth

An artist's depiction of the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft passing near Earth. Credit: JAXA

Hayabusa 2 is a Japanese mission launched in December 2014 on a six-year mission to study the asteroid Ryugu and to collect samples to bring to Earth for analysis.

  • The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft arrived at the asteroid in June 2018.

  • The spacecraft deployed two rovers and a small lander onto the surface.

  • Hayabusa 2 fired an impactor into the asteroid in February 2019 to create an artificial crater. This allowed the spacecraft to collect a sample from beneath the surface of the asteroid.

  • Hayabusa 2 delivered the asteroid sample to Earth on Dec. 6, 2020.

  • The spacecraft is now on an extended mission to the small asteroid 1998 KY26.

This movie was taken on Feb. 22, 2019, (JST) when Hayabusa2 first touched down on asteroid Ryugu to collect a sample from the surface. It was captured using the onboard small monitor camera(CAM-H). The video playback speed is five times faster than actual time. Credit: JAXA
Launch Date Dec. 3, 2014
Launch Site Tanegashima Space Center, Tanegashima, Japan
Destination Asteroid
Type Orbiter, Sample Return, Lander, Rover
Status Extended Mission In Progress
Nation Japan
Alternate Names 2014-076A, 40319

Firsts

Hayabusa 2 deployed the first rovers to operate on an asteroid.

Key Dates

Dec. 3, 2014: Launch

Dec. 3, 2015: Earth Flyby

June 27, 2018: Arrival at Asteroid Ryugu

Sept. 21, 2018: Deployment of two Minerva-II1 rovers

Oct. 3, 2018: Deployment of MASCOT lander

Oct. 14, 2018: Rehearsals began for touchdown on the asteroid

Early 2019: Deployment of impactor followed by touchdown to gather a sample

July 2019: Deployment of remaining rovers

Nov. - Dec. 2019: Spacecraft departs asteroid

Dec. 6, 2020: Hayabusa 2 delivered asteroid sample to Earth

rocky asteroid in dark space
Asteroid Ryugu photographed from a distance of about 12 miles (20 kilometers). Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST.

In Depth

Objective: Asteroid Rendezvous and Sample Return

Spacecraft Mass: 1,323 pounds (600 kilograms)

Mission Design and Management: JAXA

Scientific Instruments:

1. Near infrared spectrometer (NIRS3)

2. Thermal infrared imager (TIR)

3. Multiband imager (ONC-T)

4. Laser altimeter (LIDAR)

5. Separation camera (DCAM)

MASCOT:

1. MicrOmega infrared microscope

2. Magnetometer (MAG)

3. Radiometer (MARA)

4. Wide-angle camera (CAM)

Hayabusa2 is a Japanese spacecraft that landed on asteroid Ryugu (162173), dispatched a series of landers and a penetrator, collected multiple samples from the asteroid, and then delivered the samples to Earth.

The spacecraft is now on an extended mission to the small asteroid 1998 KY26.

Hayabusa 2 is a follow-up to Japan’s original Hayabusa mission, which was the first spacecraft to take samples from an asteroid and also the first mission to successfully land and take off from an asteroid. It returned the samples from asteroid 25143 Itokawa to Earth on June 13, 2010.

The Hayabusa2 mission is similar in nature to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx successfully collected a large sample from Bennu in November 2002 and will bring it to Earth in 2023. Both missions aim to explore what are known as carbonaceous asteroids, which are thought to be the rocky building blocks of the early solar system and could hold the keys to understanding how it formed and life later emerged.

NASA and JAXA forged an agreement to share samples from each mission in order to give scientists everywhere as much material as possible to closely study and compare. The plan also means the OSIRIS-REx mission team will certainly benefit from any early discoveries or lessons learned from the Hayabusa2 mission.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at the asteroid in June 2018. There, the spacecraft deployed rovers and landers onto Ryugu’s surface and collected a sample from near the surface of the asteroid.

Almost two years later, Hayabusa2 delivered the asteroid sample to Earth. On Dec. 6, 2020, the spacecraft swooped by Earth to drop a landing capsule containing the asteroid sample. The capsule made a fiery entry through our planet’s atmosphere and parachuted to a soft landing inside the Woomera Range Complex in the South Australian outback.

A JAXA recovery team retrieved the capsule, then took it to a nearby portable lab to inspect and secured it for travel back to Japan. In Japan, researchers are studying the sample and preparing a portion of it to allocate to its science team and to NASA.

Keiko Nakamura-Messenger, a scientist and collection curator with NASA’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division (ARES), will oversee the care and safe handling of the U.S. portion of the Hayabusa2 sample. She and her colleagues will go to work inside a brand new lab in Houston built specifically for characterizing, documenting, storing, and preparing samples for study by ARES and other researchers.

The Hayabusa2 sample will become the seventh curated extraterrestrial collection humans have curated from beyond our planet, and serve as a precursor for the important curation work that lies ahead in the new ARES lab when the Bennu samples arrive.

“When I was in college in Japan in the 1990s, my college adviser told me about how the only samples we had were from the Apollo missions, plus meteorites that landed on Earth or cosmic dust found floating in the stratosphere,” said Nakamura-Messenger. “Now, I’m going to be one of the first people to touch this new astromaterial. It’s a great honor to see the sample before virtually anyone else can.”

Joining Nakamura-Messenger in the work are fellow ARES researchers Christopher Snead, Ann Nguyen, and Mike Zolensky.

“It’s exciting that this will be the first asteroid sample of its kind in-house,” said Snead. “To get ready, we’re finishing a new lab, as well as installing and configuring special equipment in order to work with samples that we expect will be made up of small particles and very, very tricky to handle.”

Nakamura-Messenger and Snead will personally travel to Japan in December 2021 to bring the NASA sample back to Johnson.

animated sequence showing spacecraft rising from surface and casting a shadow
Images taken with Hayabusa 2's small monitor camera (CAM-H) during the Touchdown 1 Rehearsal 3 operation (TD1-R3). One image was captured every second from immediately after the spacecraft began to ascend on Oct. 25, 2018. Credit: JAXA)

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