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Space ‘dumpling’ rendez-vous: the japanese Hayabusa-2 spacecraft arrives at asteroid Ryugu

Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T) image of Ryugu, photographed at 12:50 pm (JST), June 26, 2018. (Credits: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

After a journey of nearly 2 billion miles, the japanese Hayabusa-2 spacecraft arrived at asteroid Ryugu.

The spacecraft to its rendezvous with the space rock, which is compared to a “dumpling”, on Wednesday. The distance between the Hayabusa-2 and Ryugu is over 12.4 miles, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a statement.

“Hayabusa2 is able to maintain a constant distance to the asteroid Ryugu,” the agency added, noting that the spaceship on the status of “normal.”

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Launched on Dec. 3, 2014, Hayabusa-2’s goal is to retrieve samples of Ryugu.

“From this point, we plan to carry out exploratory activities in the vicinity of the asteroid, including scientific observation of asteroid Ryugu and inventory of the asteroid for sampling,” JAXA added in the statement.

During his 18-month 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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In a tweet earlier this month, JAXA compared Ryugu the form of a “dango,” or Japanese sweet dumpling.

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

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).

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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.

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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