Hayabusa 2 and Asteroid Ryugu

Capsule return, Dec. 5-6, 2020: In a little over half an hour, they’re going to start the capsule containing samples of Asteroid Ryugu on its trajectory to Earth. It is expected to land in Australia on Sunday, while the Hayabusa spacecraft moves on to other places.

Perhaps the easiest way to follow it in English is through their very active Twitter account. Here are some recent tweets with links to English-language livestreams:




Good luck, Hayabusa team!

Update, July 14, 2020:


Update, May 12, 2020: Still coming back; they have turned on the ion engines. There is a really cool image from JAXA today of Hayabusa’s ion engine being tested, along with the update:


And here is where this fits into the overall scheme:


Update, March 1, 2020: Hayabusa 2 is now on its way back to drop off samples of Ryugu. In the meantime, papers are starting to report findings from samples from the first Hayabusa mission.

Earlier posts follow:

This is an update of the February 2019 post series.

Well, humanity has safely punched an asteroid TWICE now, each time hard enough to knock off pieces to collect as samples:

First punch, in February:

Second punch, on July 10, 2019 (this is the whole streamed event through the eyes of mission controllers at JAXA):

Mission page

Hayabusa is scheduled to leave the Ryugu asteroid this December and return the samples to Earth in December 2020

February 22, 2019: おめでとうございます。 (Congratulations!)


February 16, 2019: February 22nd is the day of the first attempt!



This post originally went up in September 2018, but now the Falcon is going to punch the Dragon Palace soon for the first planned sample-retrieval touchdown.

As this video from October 2018 notes, there was a brief delay (also see updates in post below), but the plan is still for this to happen, less than two weeks from today:

The spacecraft itself will move in, not rovers (which were released successfully last year and provided some of the close-up surface shots in that video).

Here is the most recent news:

Update, February 9, 2019: The experts plan Touchdown 1 for the week of February 18th, with a backup planned for the week of March 4, if that doesn’t work out (the whole asteroid is covered with boulders, so it’s going to be tricky.)

In other news from Ryugu . . .


Original post and updates:

November 3, 2018: It is going to a challenge to maneuver the spacecraft close enough to poke the surface for a sample.


October 30, 2018, 8:54 p.m., Pacific: Look at the footage they got during the most recent touchdown rehearsal! Heh. If Ryugu were sentient, it would think there was a mosquito buzzing around it . . . but this mosquito is going to swat Ryugu in 2019!


October 25, 2018, 1:32 p.m., Pacific: Another spectacular image, this from today’s rehearsel for the 2019 touchdown. The shiny thing is a target marker, but look at that spacecraft shadow! Wow, they were close! JAXA reports a new approach record of 12 meters (40 feet).


October 14, 2018, 4:15 p.m., Pacific: This is the rehearsal–they report that the LIDAR problem was fixed, so they’re doing the rehearsal again. There will be another rehearsal later this month.


However, they have moved up the actual touchdown to next year–see this report for details.

Although the first touchdown schedule is changed, we have enough time margins in our schedule, and our aim is a more reliable and safe operation through a comprehensive study of all the sources of information obtained so far during the Hayabusa2 project.

Real-time images from the October 3rd MASCOT deployment in English here.

October 3, 2018:


And here is the press conference (the first few minutes are silent reaction shots in the control room–those initial grins are wonderful!–and then the conference, which is narrated by an English-language translator):

October 2, 2018, 8:55 p.m., Pacific: Per most recent tweet, they’ve got communication with the lander, and . . .


October 2, 2018, 8:49 p.m., Pacific:


I’m not sure, but there may be another delay of hours now, as there was with the MINERVA rovers, before we know MASCOT has landed and is operating. . .

October 2, 2018, 6:25 p.m., Pacific: MASCOT deployment update: It’s October 3 in Japan, and Hayabusa2 is descending toward Ryugu again, just as it did recently to deploy the MINERVA rovers. Check these Twitter feeds for updates and links as things progress today:



Indeed, good luck, MASCOT!

October 1, 2018: JAXA released this update today:

Hayabusa2 status (the week of 2018.09.24) ★

This week, the MINERVA-II1 rovers that landed on the asteroid last week sent images from the asteroid surface. No regolith was seen in these images, only a shocking scenery of large and small boulders. On the other hand, the scenes of sunlight on the asteroid and the rover hopping were both very beautiful and dynamic. Next week is the deployment of the MASCOT lander. The decent operation is always a nervous time and we want to deliver the lander steadily and carefully. (Regolith: fine grain sediments).

Apparently some asteroids do have regolith.

Meanwhile, MASCOT tweeted yesterday:


Check out the MASCOT Twitter feed for more of those wonderful messages people have sent before the descent begins, day after tomorrow.

September 27, 2018: First movie ever taken on an asteroid:


Check out the Twitter feed for more breath-taking images and updates; the rovers are hopping!

September 22, 2018: YES!!!!!!!


Hopping rovers . . . now why didn’t Star Trek ever dream of that?



September 21, 2018: MINERVA is currently on the other side of the asteroid and silent, per last tweet. Some incredible images!


And remember that image of the spacecraft’s shadow, earlier this week? Check this out!

MASCOT is still scheduled to go down on October 3rd.

As for the newly deployed MINERVA rovers, it’s apparently a waiting game now:

JAXA must wait for the Hayabusa2 probe to send data from the rovers to Earth in a day or two to assess whether the release has been a success, officials said.

“We are very much hopeful. We don’t have confirmation yet, but we are very, very hopeful,” Yuichi Tsuda, JAXA project manager, told reporters.

“I am looking forward to seeing pictures. I want to see images of space as seen from the surface of the asteroid,” he said.

The cautious announcement came after a similar JAXA probe in 2005 released a rover which failed to reach its target asteroid.

Next month, Hayabusa2 will deploy an “impactor” that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a 2-kg (four-pound) copper object into the surface to blast a crater a few meters in diameter.

From this crater, the probe will collect “fresh” materials unexposed to millennia of wind and radiation, hoping for answers to some fundamental questions about life and the universe, including whether elements from space helped give rise to life on Earth.

The probe will also release a French-German landing vehicle named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) for surface observation.

Japan Times

September 20, 2018: They’re going in now to deploy MINERVA, and live-tweeting it. Real-time navigation images here are in the tweets (problem with the link here).



September15, 2018: JAXA tweeted the moments leading up to that “see your shadow on an asteroid” moment. They were practicing the descent for touchdown later this fall (see post below).


Of note, they didn’t get as far down to the asteroid as they wanted: “just” 600 meters (1,969 feet) away. Still awesome for pilots working from Earth!

The spacecraft’s LIDAR then intervened, apparently because Ryugu’s surface is not as reflective as they were expecting. The team is probably working on this problem now. This is all per their Twitter feed. Hope it doesn’t affect the mission!

September 12, 2018: Wow! This is from the descent rehearsal they did yesterday. Looks like they have found a fairly boulder-free site, too.


Update, September 4, 2018: This looks so exciting, I decided to bump the post. Per their Twitter account, the Hayabusa team is planning to begin touchdown rehearsal in a week, and the MASCOT lander is scheduled to go down in early October.

They expect it to bounce (like Philae did during the Rosetta comet mission), and they also have a very cool way for MASCOT to move around the asteroid!

Operations updates

MASCOT Twitter feed

Hayabusa-2 Twitter feed

Earlier posts

Update, July 11, 2018: I so enjoy the 21st-century luxury of having spacecraft tweet images from their latest position millions of miles away!


And here is the “Dragon Palace” in 3D!


Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft has arrived at Asteroid Ryugu!

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