The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that Hayabusa 2 has departed to another asteroid, 1998 KY26. If all goes well, the spacecraft will arrive at its destination in July 2031. The target is close to Earth, but the journey will take over a decade.
Before reaching it, the machine will make detours in order to collect information on other mini-asteroids.
Hayabusa 2's first mission began in 2014 with the asteroid Ryugu as its destination. It was a real success, because the probe managed to bring back samples to Earth, inside a capsule. The trip ended a month ago. Currently, he is heading towards his second target.
1998 KY26 is an X-type mini-asteroid that is only 30 meters in diameter. It revolves around the Sun and approaches the Earth at a point in its orbit. Note that it is its abundance of water that particularly attracts scientists.
An opportunity to examine other asteroids at high speed
After six years in space, Hayabusa 2 is aging. In addition, the machine was never designed to get too close to the Sun. The engineers then traced a path that will take it as far as possible from our star. We must avoid putting more heat stress on it.
“We managed to photograph the next asteroid that Hayabusa2 will visit. We hope this data will facilitate the new mission. "
Dr Michitoshi Yoshida, Director of the Subaru Telescope
In July 2026, the craft will fly over 2001 CC21 , a rare L-type object with a diameter of approximately 950 meters. This passage is also an opportunity to examine other asteroids at high speed in order to obtain valuable information.
Collect information to better protect the Earth
Another scientific interest is the close flight of Hayabusa 2. The mission is expected to explain how collisions with asteroids have shaped Earth's history. This phenomenon occurs about once every hundred years.
Thanks to this extended mission, scientists hope to gain more information on exoplanets and better protect the Earth. They need to understand these objects and their structure in order to better react to a possible collision.
“After bringing the capsule back to Earth , Hayabusa 2 left for a small asteroid known as the 1998 KY26. This is very important in terms of planetary science and planetary defense in order to protect the Earth from collisions against stellar objects. "
Makoto Yoshikawa, Hayabusa 2 Mission Manager at ISAS, JAXA