Earlier this month, July 10, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down briefly on asteroid Ryugu to collect samples to take back to Earth. The robotic explorer is making quite a name for itself on Ryugu and, thanks to a public donation, its fitted with a camera that lets us Earthlings experience exactly what it experiences. On Friday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) released new footage of Hayabusa’s smash and grab giving up a close up of the historic touchdown.
Hayabusa2 had been chasing Ryugu, a diamond-shaped asteroid floating near Earth, for over a year before firing a literal bullet at it to dislodge rock in the deeper areas of the asteroid. It then sent a hopping lander to the surface to collect samples for study.
As you might expect, landing on an asteroid is no easy task, and watching the touchdown as it happens is a rare treat.
Hayabusa2 is not done yet. The plan is to send another lander onto the asteroid, alongside ROVER-2, a small, lightweight robot equipped with a thermometer and cameras. Once the lander is deployed, Hayabusa2 will begin its return to Earth, flying past our planet and delivering the sample return capsule in December 2020.
Originally published July 28, 10:05 p.m. PT