JAXA releases video of dramatic Hayabusa 2 asteroid touchdown
Descent was relatively slow, but it looks much faster in the video released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency because it runs at five times normal speed. Because of the low gravity, when the 4.4-pound (2-kilogram) projectile fired into the surface, ejecta quickly encompassed the whole camera view.
Hovering at a position of about 28 feet (8.5 meters), the spacecraft let itself free fall to the surface. Once the bullet was fired with samples hopefully collected inside the sampling device, the spacecraft fired thrusters to climb back out of the asteroids tiny gravity well.
According to JAXA, the Hayabusa 2 team is confident samples were collected. However, another touch-and-go attempt is planned for April. The hope is for up to 100 milligrams of material to be brought back to Earth by December of 2020.
Hayabusa 2 is slated to stay in orbit around the asteroid until December 2019. The 1,300-pound (600-kilogram) spacecraft was launched in December 2014 and achieved orbit around Ryugu in June 2018.
Video courtesy of JAXA
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity.