Makoto Yoshikawa is the Mission Manager for Hayabusa2 at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS). He specializes in celestial mechanics, particularly in orbital analysis of small Solar System bodies such as asteroids and comets. He is also interested in the issue of planetary defense, which concerns potential Earth impacts from celestial bodies.
IN THE EARLY hours of 22 February, light was just beginning to brighten the campus of JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS) in Kanagawa, Japan. It should have been a quiet time, but the Hayabusa2 control room was packed with people. We were about to land on an asteroid.