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Space ‘dumpling’ looms into view as the spacecraft prepares for asteroid rendezvous

Illustration of Hayabusa-2 (JAXA)

The “dumpling-shaped” asteroid Ryugu lie in wait in sight of the japanese Hayabusa-2 spacecraft as it prepares to rendezvous with the space rock.

Launched on Dec. 3, 2014, Hayabusa-2’s goal is to retrieve samples of Ryugu. The BBC reports that the unmanned spacecraft should arrive at the ‘position’ of 20 km (12.4 miles) of the asteroid around June 27. During the next 18 months survey of Ryugu, Hayabusa-2 will deploy a lander and three rovers to take samples of the asteroid, according to the New Atlas.

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Hayabusa2 is shown Ryugu of 920km and we begin to see the form. It looks like… a dango-type asteroid! (Which is actually a Japanese sweet dumpling. But the shape seems similar so far…)https://t.co/2KRADT3Ybc pic.twitter.com/qlkBto9jtV

— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa), June 14, 2018

In a tweet last week, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in comparison with Ryugu the form of a “dango,” or Japanese sweet dumpling

We are now less than 100 km from the asteroid Ryugu! The route on the website is updated after TCM06, so we have reached this milestone at a slightly different time to that shown previously on our head. pic.twitter.com/M3d55ib47q

— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) 20 June 2018

Hayabusa-2 is less than 100 km (62 miles of Ryugu), the mission tweeted on Wednesday.

Images of Ryugu taken with the ONC-T. These photos were taken on June 17, 2018, around 15:00 and 18 June around 06:00 JST. (ONC team: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Koichi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, and AIST)

Earlier this week, JAXA released images of the asteroid taken by the mission, ONC-T (Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic). “On the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, you can see some of the crater-like round recessed relief,” said Project Scientist, Sei-ichiro Watanbe, in a statement.

The asteroid has a diameter of about 900m (2,953 ft), consistent with the predictions of the ground observations, according to Watanabe, who noted that the diameter of the measurement can change as the spaceship gets closer to Ryugu.

“The shape of the asteroid looks like a spinning top (called a “Coma” in Japanese), with the equatorial part wider than the poles,” he added. “This form is seen in many small asteroids that rotate at high speed.”

Hayabusa-2 is expected to leave Ryugu at the end of 2019 and returning to Earth around the end of 2020.

The mission of the MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) lander developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the French space agency (CNES).

#Hayabusa2 and @MASCOT2018 are almost on #asteroid #Ryugu! #asteroidlanding https://t.co/4HhSeFyHzq

— DLR – English (@DLR_en) 20 June 2018

The spacecraft is the successor of JAXA’s Hayabusa, which landed on the asteroid Itokawa in November 2005. Despite the fact that, haunted with problems, the mission collected a number of asteroid samples, which returned to Earth with a Hayabusa in June 2010.

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NASA is also on a mission to retrieve an asteroid sample. The space agency’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be launched on Sept. 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a trip to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. On Aug. 17, 2018 the spacecraft will see Bennu with her Polycam imager at a distance of 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles), marking the start of the mission’s approach phase. OSIRIS-Rex is expected to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3, 2018, and to start a research to the space rock.

The spacecraft will be the asteroid sample to Earth in 2023.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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