The probe first landed on Ryugu in February 2019 to capture material from asteroids by firing a “bullet” into the surface, raising dust and rocks. It was originally supposed to have completed this mission in October 2018, but the updated surface data resulted in a change in strategy. Hayabusa2 himself will then study the tiny asteroid 1998 KY26, although the probe is not expected to arrive until July 2031.
Provided the asteroid samples go as promised, they could be very valuable. Ryugu could help understand the nature of the first solar system and explore the possibility that asteroids seed the Earth with organic matter. It won’t be the only mission of its kind, either. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission recently captured its own asteroid sample and is expected to return in September 2023. Don’t be surprised if humanity learns a lot more about its Heavenly Quarter in the coming years.
Today (06/12) at 04:31 JST, all operations related to the re-entry of the capsule are completed. The operation was perfect. We will now move on to scientific observation operations, and observe the Earth and the moon with scientific instruments.
– HAYABUSA2 @ JAXA (@ haya2e_jaxa) December 5, 2020