Thursday, October 25, 2018

Hayabusa2 Update: My Name Is On An Asteroid!

Hayabusa2's shadow is visible on the surface of Ryugu after a target marker (the white point inside the green circle) containing the names of 180,000 people successfully landed on the asteroid...on October 25, 2018 (Japan Time).

Earlier today, Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully conducted a third touchdown rehearsal at asteroid Ryugu in preparation for a sample retrieval attempt that will occur sometime early next year. During the rehearsal, Hayabusa2 got as close as 39 feet (12 meters) to the surface—before ascending to a home position more than 6 miles (10 kilometers) above Ryugu. During this third rehearsal, Hayabusa2 released a target marker (one of five that it is equipped with) that helped track the orbiter's distance from the asteroid's surface. While successfully being a vital navigation aid for Japan's robotic probe, the target marker served another awesome purpose.

A pre-launch snapshot of three of the five target markers that the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is equipped with for its mission at asteroid Ryugu.

Inside each of the five target markers aboard Hayabusa2 is a film strip containing the names of 180,000 people...including me! These names were submitted online between April and August of 2013. Along with Mars (courtesy of the Phoenix lander, the Curiosity rover and hopefully InSight when it arrives at the Red Planet on November 26), Ryugu is now the second planetary body beyond Earth in our solar system that I have a virtual presence on. So cool! When Hayabusa2 departs from Ryugu in December of next year to return samples back to Earth (in December of 2020), at least two target markers will be left behind on the asteroid's surface. And Ryugu will continue its 475-day orbit around the Sun with 180,000 monikers gracing its soil. Okay, I'll stop waxing poetic for now. Happy Thursday!

A strip of film, containing around 180,000 names submitted through the Internet in 2013, that is one of five placed inside target markers to be used by Hayabusa2 at asteroid Ryugu.
JAXA My participation certificate for the Hayabusa2 mission.

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