The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is embarking on an ambitious mission to test technology for changing the course of small, fast-moving asteroids with the aim of preventing potential collisions with Earth. JAXA will utilize its spacecraft, Hayabusa-2, which was […]
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is embarking on an ambitious mission to test technology for changing the course of small, fast-moving asteroids with the aim of preventing potential collisions with Earth. JAXA will utilize its spacecraft, Hayabusa-2, which was launched in December 2014.
Originally intended to intercept the asteroid 162173 Ryugu, Hayabusa-2 successfully arrived in June 2018. After conducting detailed surveys and collecting samples from the asteroid, Hayabusa-2 completed its primary mission. However, JAXA engineers announced in December 2020 that there was enough remaining fuel to continue the mission.
The new mission for Hayabusa-2 involves a flyby of the asteroid 2002 CC21 in July 2026, followed by a rendezvous with the small, fast-rotating asteroid 1998 KY26 in 2031. While JAXA has not specified whether they will attempt to change the course of these asteroids, there are claims that it may happen as the spacecraft nears the end of its operational lifespan.
Asteroid 1998 KY26 is an almost spherical object with a diameter of 30 meters that rotates rapidly. The challenge for JAXA will be to approach the asteroid and place a target marker on it due to the unique physical environment created by the centrifugal force near the asteroid’s surface. Understanding these small, fast-moving asteroids is of great importance due to their potential for colliding with Earth and causing significant damage.
Analyst Lance Gatling from Tokyo emphasizes the significance of the data collected by JAXA, particularly in the context of Japan’s aspirations in asteroid mining. Gatling also emphasizes the challenges that this mission presents but believes that any new knowledge about asteroids is invaluable.
JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 mission will provide a new opportunity to experiment with methods for changing the course of asteroids, including kinetic impact and detonation of nuclear devices. This mission will make a valuable contribution to advancing planetary defense technologies against potentially hazardous asteroids.