Starting on 10 July 2018, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will be staging a newly designed exhibition on the current Hayabusa2 and MASCOT mission in the Untere Rathaushalle (ground floor) of Bremen's town hall. The Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 recently reached the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu on 27 June 2018. The first images and measurements acquired by Hayabusa2 have already been transmitted to Earth. Aboard the probe is the MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) lander, which was developed in a German-French collaboration led by DLR. The lander will carry four scientific experiments – three of them from Germany – to the asteroid surface in order to examine the geology, chemistry and physical properties of Ryugu. It is planned so far that in October MASCOT will separate from the probe and land a short time later on the asteroid, which is only about 900 metres in diameter. Up to 16 hours of experiments and measurements will then be carried out on Ryugu. For the first time in the history of space travel, a lander – MASCOT – will hop across the surface in order to study different locations. Later in the mission, Hayabusa2 will make contact with Ryugu in order to collect asteroid material and return it to Earth by 2020.
The exhibition from 10 July to 14 October 2018 will show how scientists are studying the characteristics and composition of Ryugu. It will also explain the significance of asteroids as primordial matter from the early Solar System, and even demonstrate the threat posed to our planet by asteroids crossing Earth's orbit. Six sections will provide information in both German and English on the diversity of asteroids and their role in the Solar System – the scientific objectives of the mission; the stages of the mission; and the sometimes highly complex maneuvers on the asteroid Ryugu. Videos, large monitors and a photo wall for 'selfies' are further components of the exhibition.
"After a journey lasting three-and-a-half years, the Hayabusa2 space probe and MASCOT have arrived at the asteroid Ryugu, and it is already clear that this heavenly body is extraordinary," says Hansjörg Dittus, DLR Executive Board Member responsible for space research. "It is shaped like a diamond and is covered with many large boulders – it is probably a fragment stemming from an earlier collision. With the exhibition here in Bremen, the place where the MASCOT lander was built and tested at DLR, we all want to share in this exciting international mission and in the study of Ryugu."
Martin Günthner, Senator for Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen says: "I am especially pleased that a significant contribution to this asteroid mission was made in Bremen by the Institute of Space Systems. This is where the MASCOT lander was developed, built and tested. For Bremen, as the City of Space, this mission has special significance because it shows that we in Bremen are providing extraordinary services with our expertise in all areas of spaceflight. It is all the more pleasing that this unique asteroid research programme is now being presented to the public within the framework of this exhibition."
A full size spacecraft model
The centrepiece of the exhibition in the Untere Rathaushalle is a 1:1 model of the space probe Hayabusa2 (Japanese for Peregrine Falcon). This model was provided by the Japanese space agency JAXA - GLOBAL (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). "The collaboration with our European partners reveals synergies that will bring success to the Hayabusa2 mission," says Hitoshi Kuninaka, Vice President of JAXA.
The German-French contribution to Hayabusa2 is a small technical marvel. "In the tiny MASCOT lander, we stored four scientific instruments, the processors required for them, the energy supply and antennas for communication with the probe, as well as a flywheel, which puts MASCOT in the right position to be able to carry out its experiments," explains MASCOT project manager Tra-Mi Ho from the DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen. "With this swing arm mechanism, we will be able to make leaps of up to 70 metres across the asteroid's surface in order to perform our experiments in two or three other locations. As a result, we are breaking new ground in the study of small bodies in the Solar System."
The Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft, with its German-French MASCOT lander on board, has now travelled more than 3.2 billion kilometres through the inner Solar System. Hayabusa2 is currently in orbit maintaining a distance of 20 kilometres from the asteroid Ryugu, while collecting pictures and data of the small rotating body, which are continuously updated in the exhibition.
'Original building blocks' of planetary formation
Ryugu is a dark carbon-rich asteroid that emerged 4.5 billion years ago in a flattened cloud of gas and dust rotating around the young Sun and is considered to be an 'original building block' left over from planetary formation. This – and the fact that Ryugu follows an elliptical orbit around the Sun that brings it to within about 100,000 kilometres of Earth – makes this asteroid especially interesting for scientists. The researchers want to acquire a deeper knowledge of the characteristics and composition of near-Earth asteroids in order to understand these fragments from the earliest period of the Solar System, to gain insights into the formation of planets, and not least to be able to plan potential asteroid defence missions more effectively. The plan is to return the asteroid dust to Earth with the mother probe Hayabusa2 in 2020. At the moment, the asteroid Ryugu and the Hayabusa2 space probe are on the opposite side of the Sun and about 280 million kilometres from Earth. It therefore takes at least 15 minutes for a signal from the space probe to reach Earth.
About the Hayabusa2 mission and MASCOT
Hayabusa2 is a Japanese space agency (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; JAXA) mission to the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu. The German-French lander MASCOT on board Hayabusa2 was developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and built in close cooperation with the French space agency (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales; CoRoT Special). DLR, the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale and Technical of University Braunschweig have contributed the scientific experiments on board MASCOT. The MASCOT lander and its experiments are operated and controlled by DLR with support from CNES and in constant interaction with the Hayabusa2 team.
The DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen was responsible for developing and testing the lander together with CNES. The DLR Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptronics in Braunschweig was responsible for the stable structure of the lander. The DLR Robotics and Mechatronics Center in Oberpfaffenhofen developed the swing arm that allows MASCOT to hop on the asteroid. The DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin contributed the MasCam camera and the MARA radiometer. The asteroid lander is monitored and operated from the MASCOT Control Center in the Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC) at the DLR site in Cologne.
About the exhibition
The 'contact with an asteroid – Hayabusa2 and MASCOT' exhibition of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) was designed and developed by the DLR institutes and facilities involved in the MASCOT asteroid lander, with the participation of external mission partners.
The exhibition will open to visitors on 10 July 2018 and will run until 14 October 2018. Opening times: Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 18:00, Saturdays from 09:30 to 16:00. and Sundays from 10:30 to 15:00. Admission is free of charge.
In October, the International Astronautical Congress 2018 (IAC 2018), the world's most important conference for the global aerospace industry, will take place in Bremen. For this reason, more than 50 initiatives consisting of companies, academic institutions, as well as cultural and creative groups are organising an entire year of space-related events in Bremen under the heading STERNSTUNDEN 2018. The dates mentioned here are provisional as operation timings are very susceptible to change due to a wide range of factors, including our knowledge about Ryugu as we approach the asteroid.