Emily LakdawallaOct 05, 2015

Hayabusa2's target asteroid has a name!

JAXA announced today the results of the naming contest for Hayabusa2. The target of the sample-return mission, formerly known as 1999 JU3 and still numbered 162173, is now named 162173 Ryugu.

Asteroid 1999 JU3, a target of the Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2,” was named “Ryugu”. One major reason for the selection was that, in the Japanese ancient story “Urashima Taro”, the main character, Taro Urashima, brought back a casket from the Dragon’s palace, or the “Ryugu” Castle, at the bottom of the ocean, and the theme of “bringing back a treasure” is common as the Hayabusa2 will also bring back a capsule with samples. It was selected among 7,336 entries. Thank you very much to so many of you who took part in the naming campaign.

I wonder how a peregrine falcon finds its way to the bottom of the ocean to visit Ryugu castle? I foresee some entertaining fan fiction!

The mission is proceeding well; it successfully performed an "additional ion engine operation" on September 1 and 2 to fine-tune its trajectory for its planned Earth flyby in December. The Earth flyby will send it onward to a mid-2018 rendezvous with Ryugu.

Hayabusa2 in flight
Hayabusa2 in flight Image: Go Miyazaki

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