It's a banner year for sample return missions. In 2020, China, Japan, and the United States are all scheduled to have sample return missions in flight, seeking to retrieve material from near-Earth asteroids, the Moon, and eventually Mars.
Hayabusa2 didn’t quite make it down to its intended 60-meter distance from asteroid Ryugu yesterday. There is nothing wrong with the spacecraft; it’s healthy and returning to its home position. The team will adjust parameters and give it another try in the future.
Two months after arrival, the team has reported some preliminary facts about Ryugu. They also announced the selection of candidate landing sites for the spacecraft sample collection, for the German-built MASCOT hopper, and for the MINERVA-II microrovers
For the second time, JAXA navigators have zoomed their cameras and other instruments in on asteroid Ryugu. The August 1 operation was quicker than the previous one, requiring only 26 hours for the descent, science, and ascent.
Last week, Hayabusa2 approached to within 6000 meters of the surface of Ryugu, taking new photos. The team has developed a set of terminology to describe Hayabusa2's navigational positions around the asteroid.