MAS­COT on board Hayabusa2

Hayabusa2 spacecraft with ion engines
Hayabusa2 space­craft with ion en­gines
Image 1/3, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Hayabusa2 spacecraft with ion engines

The Japanese Hayabusa2 space­craft with the Ger­man-French Mo­bile As­ter­oid Sur­face Scout (MAS­COT) lan­der on board has com­plet­ed its 3200-mil­lion-kilo­me­tre jour­ney to as­ter­oid Ryugu.
Shadow of MASCOT over asteroid Ryugu
Shad­ow of MAS­COT over as­ter­oid Ryugu dur­ing the de­scent
Image 2/3, Credit: MASCOT/DLR/JAXA.

Shadow of MASCOT over asteroid Ryugu during the descent

DLR's MAS­CAM cam­era on board MAS­COT ac­quired this im­age as it de­scend­ed to the as­ter­oid Ryugu three and a half min­utes af­ter sep­a­rat­ing from its moth­er­craft Hayabusa2. In the im­age, the lan­der is ap­prox­i­mate­ly 20 me­tres above the as­ter­oid's sur­face, and MAS­COT's shad­ow can be seen at the top right.
Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT)
Mo­bile As­ter­oid Sur­face Scout (MAS­COT)
Image 3/3, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT)

MAS­COT is a high­ly in­te­grat­ed as­ter­oid lan­der de­vel­oped by DLR in co­op­er­a­tion with CNES and JAXA.

On 3 December 2014, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 embarked on a sample return mission to asteroid (162173) Ryugu (formerly designated 1999 JU3). On board was the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT), a lander built by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt; DLR) in collaboration with the French space agency CNES and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA. On 3 October 2018 at 03:58 (CEST) MASCOT separated from the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft, and landed and made contact wit Ryugu approximately 20 minutes later. MASCOT was operational for over 17 hours, during which it collected data from the asteroid's surface.

The aim of the Hayabusa2 mission is to learn more about the origin and evolution of the Solar System. As asteroids account for some of the most primordial celestial bodies, researching them gives us a glimpse into our cosmic past. Furthermore, Ryugu is a near-Earth asteroid, which means it could pose a threat to Earth and must be investigated in order to reduce this threat.

Hayabusa2/MASCOT at a glance - Technical specifications and mission timeline

Launch of Hayabusa2 spacecraft:3 December 2014
Health check of the MASCOT lander:June 2015
Calibration of MASCOT instruments:September 2015
Earth fly-by:December 2015
Health check of the MASCOT lander:July 2016
Calibration of MASCOT instruments:November 2016
Health check of the MASCOT lander:May 2017
Calibration of MASCOT instruments:November 2017
Health check of the MASCOT lander:Spring 2018
Hayabusa2 arrives at asteroid:27 June 2018 18-month long stay
MASCOT lands on asteroid Ryugu:3 October 2018
Hayabusa2 collects samples of the asteroid during a short ground contact (possibly several times):2019
Hayabusa2 to depart from asteroid:November/December 2019
Hayabusa2 to arrive at Earth:Late 2020
Hayabusa2 spacecraft, Specifications/Instruments
Type of mission :Asteroid sample return mission
Launch date:3 December 2014, 04:22 UTC
Launch site:Yoshinobu Launch Complex, Tanegashima Space Center
Rocket:H-IIA 202 (Flugnummer F26)
Mission length:6 years, return planned for December 2020
Mission control centre:JAXA SSOC (Sagamihara Space Operations Center)
MASCOT control centre:DLR Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC)
Startmasse:approx. 600 kilograms
Key features
Electric Propulsion System (Ion engine):Used for changing orbit during journey to asteroid as well as return to Earth; engine is energy-efficient, with one tenth of power consumption compared to chemical propellant.
Sampler mechanism:SMP to collect samples from surface of asteroid. Cylinder-shaped sampler horn will be lowered to surface, shooting out a small projectile once it makes contact with the surface. Materials ejected will then be collected via a catcher.
Target markers:Five beanbag-type markers will descend to the asteroid's surface to serve as artificial landmarks prior to landing for the distance measurement of the collision warning system. The target markers are hollow and filled with a granulate that dampens the kinetic energy and thus prevents them from bouncing from the surface.
Re-entry capsule :Container that stores samples from asteroid and will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at 12 kilometres per second.
Mission instruments
Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI):Two-kilogram copper lump to collide with surface of asteroid to make an artificial crater, used to study the inside structure of the asteroid before and after impact; will also be used to sample 'fresh' material underground.
Near InfraRed Spectrometer (NIRS3) and Thermal Infrared Imager (TIR):Remote sensing instruments to measure asteroid from Hayabusa2’s 20 kilometre-distance position. NIRS3 will investigate mineral and water metamorphism; TIR to study temperature and thermal inertia of asteroid.
MINERVA-II:2 small rovers that will study the asteroid from its surface.
MASCOT:Small lander designed to study the asteroid using four observation devices and move across the asteroid.
MASCOT lander specifications/Instruments
Dimensions:295 mm x 275 mm x 195 mm
Weight:9.6 kilograms
Target asteroid:162173 Ryugu
Mother craft:Hayabusa2
Operators:DLR, CNES, JAXA
MASCOT Camera (MASCAM):Wide-angle camera that takes pictures during the descent to the asteroid surface and will provide ground data for the instruments on board Hayabusa2 as well as contextual information for the instruments on board MASCOT. (Institute of Planetary Research, DLR)
MASCOT Radiometer (MARA):The radiometer is used for the high-resolution determination of the surface temperature as well as the thermal changes during the day-night changes on the asteroid. (Institute of Planetary Research, DLR)
Magnetometer (MAG):Determination of the asteroid's magnetic field (Institute of Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics, TU Braunschweig)
Infrared spectrometer (MicrOmega):Determination of the mineralogical composition of the asteroid surface. (Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale, Université Paris Sud)
The target: Asteroid (162173) Ryugu (formerly 1999 JU3)
Origin:C-class asteroid (carbon-rich), near-Earth asteroid of the Apollo group
Discovery:May 1999
Discoverer:LINEAR (Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research) Team
Shape:Approximately spherical with the irregularities expected in small bodies (determined by thermal observations.
Diameter:880 ± 15 metres
Rotation period:7.6 hours
Albedo:0.05 (very low, darker than coal)

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