Planetary Radio • Jul 25, 2018

Hayabusa2 Reaches a Dark Diamond in Space

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On This Episode

20180725 hitoshi kukinaka

Hitoshi Kuninaka

Director General for ISAS/JAXA

20180725 hansjorg dittus

Hansjörg Dittus

DLR Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology

Bruce betts portrait hq library

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

Japan’s Hayabusa2 is just 6 kilometers from asteroid Ryugu as it prepares to snatch samples of the space rock for return to Earth. ISAS/JAXA Director General and former Hayabusa Mission Project Manager Hitoshi Kuninaka joins us for a conversation about the spacecraft and what’s ahead. Then we hear from Hansjörg Dittus of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) about the German/French lander called MASCOT that was carried to Ryugu by Hayabusa2. Emily Lakdawalla is the new editor of the Planetary Society’s distinguished magazine, The Planetary Report. Bruce Betts explains how to get the most out of a lunar eclipse and the closest Mars has come to Earth for many years. We also give you an extra week to enter the space trivia contest!

Ryugu global view 1, 20 km
Ryugu global view 1, 20 km Ryugu as seen by Hayabusa2's Optical Navigation Camera - Telescopic (ONC-T) from a distance of about 20 kilometers. This image was taken at around 23:13 JST on June 30, 2018, and is the reverse side of global view 2.Image: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST
Itokawa and Ryugu compared
Itokawa and Ryugu compared The two target asteroids of Hayabusa and Hayabusa2, compared. The comparison is based on less-than-precise information on the scales of the two images; it may be updated with another version once better scale information is available. Do not use for spacecraft navigation.Image: Images: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Koichi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST. Comparison: Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society. All errors hers.
MASCOT lander (artist concept)
MASCOT lander (artist concept) The asteroid lander MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) hopping across Ryugu’s surface.Image: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

This week's question:

When will be the next time Mars is closer to Earth than the 2018 approach on July 31st?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, August 8th at 8am Pacific Time. An extra week to submit your answer! Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

After Apollo 11, what was the first American mission to fly an all-veteran crew? (All members had previously been in space.)


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

What is the numerical value for the eccentricity of Mars' orbit? In other words, how uncircular is it?


Eccentric Mars has an eccentricity of .0934, representing an orbit that is considerably more eccentric than Earth’s.