What are we up to at ISAS?

Helping to bring an asteroid home

Two weeks before Hayabusa2 was due to return to Earth, Caitlin Caruana feared it would all go wrong. Caruana is part of the Australian Space Agency’s (ASA) international engagement team and for the last six months of 2020, she was dedicating nearly all her time to ensuring that JAXA would be able to collect their spacecraft’s sample return capsule when it landed in Australia on December 6, 2020.

BepiColombo is set for science, as the spacecraft performs a Venus swing-by

On October 15, the ESA・JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft will swing-by Venus, using the gravity of our neighbouring planet to adjust its orbit en route to Mercury. This close approach presents a unique opportunity to examine the thick Venusian atmosphere and its space environment through three different JAXA missions simultaneously, providing an unprecedented view of a terrestrial planet that evolved very differently from the Earth.

Ready for swing-by! BepiColombo will pass close to the Earth on April 10

On April 10, JAXA’s MIO Mercury orbiter will swing-by the Earth onboard the BepiColombo spacecraft. As the spacecraft receives a tug from the Earth’s gravity to assist the journey to Mercury, MIO will be testing its instruments on our planet’s magnetic field.

Creating a crater to constrain the age of an asteroid’s surface

An important science goal for the Hayabusa2 mission is to map the history of asteroid Ryugu. As a primitive carbonaceous asteroid from the early days of the Solar System, Ryugu’s life traces the movement of ices and organics; the ingredients for habitability.

Are primitive asteroids “fluffy”?

The first photographs from Hayabusa2 of the surface of asteroid Ryugu revealed a treacherous landscape, with large boulders carpeting the asteroid to form a rugged topology. Yet when the spacecraft turned on its thermal infrared imager (TIR), it saw a surprisingly homogenous surface in the thermographic images.

Is the history of Mars etched in the grains of its moons?

The ISAS・JAXA Martian Moons eXploration Mission (MMX) will bring home a sample from the moons of Mars. New results from ISAS researchers suggest this sample may not only uncover the origins of the moons, but also reveal the evolution of the habitat on Mars itself.

Measuring the waves through Titan: ISAS builds a seismometer for NASA’s Dragonfly mission

In June this year NASA announced the selection of Dragonfly for the agency’s New Frontiers program. The mission will fly an innovative multi-rotor drone through the atmosphere of Titan, investigating multiple sites on the Saturn moon. The goal is to study chemistry similar to that which supported the development of life on the early Earth. Onboard Dragonfly will be a seismometer designed here at ISAS・JAXA to investigate the interior of one of the most Earth-like locations in the Solar System.

Building the first cells for the origins of life

When the Hayabusa2 mission returns to Earth at the end of 2020, it will bring with it a sample from a carbonaceous asteroid. This class of asteroid is thought to have pelted the early Earth, delivering water and possibly the first organic molecules with which to begin life. But what happened after that?

Hayabusa2: mapping Ryugu’s extraordinary past

Three research papers have been published this month in the International Journal, Science, detailing the first results from the JAXA/ISAS Hayabusa2 mission to asteroid Ryugu.

The Shifting Sands of Phobos

The Martian moon, Phobos, has a two-coloured surface that has been difficult to explain. In a Nature Geosciences paper this month, researchers at ISAS・JAXA have suggested a novel explanation that may shed light on how the moons of our red planet were born.

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