japanese spacecraft
Artist’s concept of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft arriving at asteroid 1999 JU3.

Japanese spacecraft attempt to grab a second sample from a distant asteroid has been successfully recorded by a camera. earlier in July. Earlier in July, the actual sample collection was held. However, on Friday, July 26th, a video was just released, which was made of images taken during the maneuver.

Since July 2018, Hayabusa2, the sample-collecting spacecraft, has been in orbit around the asteroid Ryugu. Many robots and rovers have been already delivered to the asteroid by spacecraft. The shadow of the spacecraft can be seen in the new video which has been released, it grow steadily as it nears the surface of the asteroid. A puff of dust and rocks explodes from the surface, as the outstretched sample-collecting limb makes contact with the surface. Meanwhile, while the spacecraft quickly ascends back into space.

The video which has been released is actually sped up by about 10 times. The video shows the second time that the spacecraft has grabbed a sample of the asteroid. Moreover, it is also the second time that CAM-H, an on-board camera, which was entirely funded by public donations has captured the collection of the sample.

The potential danger of the second collection attempt has also been mentioned in a blog post on Hayabusa2’s official website. Unfriendly terrain, technical difficulty of the maneuver, and the fact that the spacecraft was operating so far from Earth, this comb ination left Hayabusa2 mission control with no room for error. According to the team, the success they got when they managed to get the sample in February, did not justify or guarantee the success or a similar good outcome with this next attempt.

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After figuring out all of those risks, they decided to try it anyway, because obviously if they could collect a second sample, all the risks were eventually outweighed by the potential scientific riches. Unlike the first time, the aim of the team was to collect the sample from the interior of the asteroid, as the interior will not be subjected to as much radiation as its surface.

A crater was blasted by the Hayabusa2 into Ryugu’s surface, back in April, which exposed the material of the interior of the asteroid. A few weeks later, pictures of the crater were sent back to Earth. These pictures were used by the researchers to figure out that if fresh material from the impact had landed, also if they could safely make an effort to collect it. They concluded that it can be done but with some risks.

The mission of the, Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2 has been making progress, since it has launched in December 2014. In either November or December, the spacecraft will finally starts its journey to home, according to the schedule. Sometime in late 2020, it should arrive at Earth and will also send its precious samples after a long trip.