Finding the best trade-off
The small French-German MASCOT lander will set down in the southern hemisphere of Ryugu, an Earth-crossing asteroid spanning 900 m, this October at a distance of 300 million km from Earth. The news was announced today by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which is leading the Hayabusa2 mission, at a media briefing near Tokyo.
3D model of the MA-9 site selected by JAXA where the French-German MASCOT surface scout will land on asteroid Ryugu on 3 October (probable first contact areas are in light blue, zones where it is likely to stabilize after bouncing on the surface are in darker blue). Credits: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Koichi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST, CNES, DLR.
The target site, provisionally named MA-9, fulfils the technical criteria required for MASCOT to be able to operate as planned, notably with regard to the thermal environment, illumination conditions and the radiofrequency link with Hayabusa2, and will not get in the way of Hayabusa-2 and MINERVA II operations. The science teams for the MicrOmega, MasMag, MASCAM and MARA instruments are also convinced of the science value of the zone selected, despite the different requirements of each instrument. MASCOT is scheduled to separate from its ‘mothership’ and land on Ryugu in the early hours of 3 October (CET). Wherever MASCOT comes to a stop after bouncing on the surface, it is sure to make fascinating discoveries.
3D model of the 10 sites identified by CNES for MASCOT’s landing on asteroid Ryugu on 3 October. Credits: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Koichi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST, CNES, DLR.
Unique, world-renowned expertise
CNES’s teams provided the unique and world-renowned expertise they have acquired in spaceflight dynamics, as previously demonstrated for the Rosetta mission and in choosing the landing site for Philae in 2014. On 14 August at CNES’s Toulouse Space Centre, this expertise was used to select a shortlist of six landing sites from ten initially proposed for MASCOT and rank them in order of preference on the basis of technical feasibility and science value. Another meeting was held on 17 August in Tokyo where the JAXA project team selected and approved the three final sites for sample collection by Hayabusa2 and landing by MASCOT and the three MINERVA-II mini-rovers. Again, CNES’s expertise proved crucial here as Ryugu is a particularly inhospitable place strewn with rocks that will make touching its surface a highly risky proposition for Hayabusa2. Two back-up sites have therefore been identified.
The small French-German MASCOT lander (foreground) will be released onto asteroid Ryugu by Hayabusa2 (background) on 3 October 300 million km from Earth. Credits: JAXA.
About the Hayabusa2 mission
Hayabusa2 is a sample return mission to asteroid Ryugu led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). It is carrying three experiments: one to collect samples of Ryugu’s surface by the probe itself (returning to Earth in 2020), three MINERVA-II mini-rovers to perform in-situ analyses and the MASCOT surface scout. MASCOT was developed and built by the German space agency DLR in close collaboration with CNES. The lander’s scientific instruments were developed by DLR, the IAS space astrophysics institute and Braunschweig University of Technology (TUB, Germany). MASCOT and its experiments are being operated and controlled by DLR with support from CNES and in constant communication with JAXA