In DepthPlanetary Science

Asteroid mission faces ‘breathtaking’ touchdown

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Science  04 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6422, pp. 16-17
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6422.16

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Launched in 2014, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 has been orbiting its target, an asteroid named Ryugu, since June 2018. At a recent symposium, researchers presented the first data collected by detectors abroad the craft and three rovers that were successfully dropped on the asteroid. But the mission's most daunting phase is yet to come: Hayabusa2 will make several touchdowns to scoop up samples for study on Earth. Ryugu's cragged, cratered, boulder-strewn surface makes this a daunting challenge; the first touchdown, scheduled for October 2018, was postponed, and engineers have made an audacious new plan for a pinpoint landing between closely spaced boulders.