August 23, 2018

Three landing sites selected for Hayabusa2 mission to explore asteroid Ryugu

Thursday 23 August, at a media briefing in Tokyo, JAXA, CNES and DLR unveiled the three landing sites on asteroid Ryugu that have been selected for the Hayabusa2 probe (to collect samples), the MASCOT lander and the MINERVA II experiment. At the briefing, participants detailed the technical and scientific rationale for the final selection made by JAXA with the aid of the Hayabusa2 scientific community, the JAXA project team and experts from CNES and DLR.

At the meetings leading up to this final choice, held in a spirit of close cooperation, 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 MINERVA II. 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 target landing site for MASCOT is in the asteroid’s southern hemisphere and has been provisionally named MA-9. This site 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 the probe, and it in no way impinges on the sites selected by JAXA for 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.

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About the Hayabusa2 mission

Hayabusa2 is a sample return mission to asteroid Ryugu led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The French-German MASCOT lander on Hayabusa2 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). MASCOT and its experiments are being operated and controlled by DLR with support from CNES and in constant communication with JAXA.

Pascale Bresson    Press Officer    Tel: +33 (0)1 44 76 75 39
Raphaël Sart    Press Officer    Tel: +33 (0)1 44 76 74 51
Claire Dramas    Press Officer/Toulouse    Tel. +33 (0)5 61 28 28 36