Geeking Science: Hard-working asteroid probes

An artist’s depiction of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft passing near Earth. Credit: JAXA

The Japanese probe, Hayabusa2, is typical of most probes, hard-working with multiple missions. Once we (humanity, no matter the nation) get something out of the Earth’s gravity, we use it hard.

The first mission was visiting Asteroid Ryugu, get a sample using a German lander, then return the sample to earth in a flyby. Taking pictures, of course. Next up is another asteriod in 2026 and then a third in 2031.

All of these missions will give us information regarding questions about asteroids and planet formation, how our solar system, and possibly other systems, evolved.

Meanwhile on Earth, JAXA is sharing their samples with NASA, which is sharing samples from their own missions back with the Japanese space agency “to give scientists everywhere as much material as possible to closely study and compare”. (NASA) International cooperation is essential to understanding and, eventually, living in the big black. We think places like Antarctica and Australia are anti-human life, or North Carolina in the middle of July, but Space is even more inhospitable. It’s going to take all of us to get out of the cradle.

And our hardworking probes with their multiple missions.

“Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft is scheduled to return a sample of asteroid Ryugu to Earth this week. This image of Ryugu’s rocky surface was taken in 2018 by MASCOT, the German Aerospace Center’s Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout lander, which separated from Hayabusa2 to land on Ryugu in preparation for sample collection. Image credit: MASCOT/DLR/JAXA.” (The Planetary Society, 12/4/2020)


Murray, Bruce. “Hayabusa2 sees Earth after sample dropoff.” 12/5/20202. The Planetary Society. – last viewed 12/28/2022.

Nasa. “Hayabusa2.” (undated) – last viewed 12/28/2022.

The Planetary Society. “Space Snapshot.” The Downlink (email newsletter). 12/4/2020.

The Planetary Society. “Mission Briefings: Samples from asteroid Ryugu arrived safely on Earth.” The Downlink (email newsletter). 12/11/2020.

The Planetary Society. “Hayabusa2, Japan’s mission to Ryugu and other asteroids.” (undated) – last viewed 12/11/2022.