JAXA has announced that the asteroid exploring spacecraft Hayabusa2 is officially done with its mission on the asteroid Ryugu. With the sample gathering complete, the spacecraft departed the asteroid on November 13, 2019, at 10:05 am JST. JAXA has confirmed that the departure from the asteroid was made.
The space agency says that the thruster operation of Hayabusa2 occurred normally. The spacecraft left Ryugu at a velocity of about 9.2 cm/s after firing its chemical propulsion system. The status of the spacecraft was classified as normal.
JAXA says that it is planning to conduct performance tests of onboard instruments, including the electric propulsion system, which will be used for the return trip to Earth. JAXA launched Hayabusa2 to explore Ryugu in December of 2014, and the mission was planned to last six years.
The spacecraft did some interesting stuff on the asteroid, including blowing a hole on its surface to gather samples of the asteroid that it is bringing back to Earth for scientific study. The spacecraft is expected to return to Earth in late 2020 if all goes well.
Hayabusa2 sent back the highest resolution images yet of the surface of Ryugu. The surface looked harsh and just as we would expect the surface of an asteroid to look. The mission required JAXA to land the spacecraft on the surface of Ryugu twice. It landed before blowing a hole in the asteroid and then lifted off to deploy its bomb, landing again when the small crater in the asteroid was made.
Asteroids are mostly shielded from cosmic rays and solar winds. Samples were taken to be returned to Earth because the surface of an asteroid is through to hold clues to the origins of the solar system.