SNS: Asia Letter, Q4 2020


By Scott Foster

[Ed. Note: Beginning with this issue, we will be honoring the Japanese request, supported by Prime Minister Abe, of non-Japanese media to reverse the order of Japanese personal names when referred to using the Roman alphabet. It is doubtful that we'll maintain the style of capitalizing the family name, practiced here to reduce confusion coming out of the gate. - sla]

Hayabusa2's Next Mission: Planetary Defense

Japan's Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule carrying samples from the asteroid Ryugu is scheduled to land in Australia on December 6. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft will then swing by Earth and head for asteroid 1998KY26, arriving in July 2031, if everything goes according to plan.

Discovered in 1998 at Kitt Peak National Observatory when it passed by Earth at a distance of about 800,000 kilometers (2.1x farther away than the moon), 1998KY26 is a much smaller and more difficult target for exploration than Ryugu. Only 30 meters in diameter (vs. Ryugu's 900 meters), it rotates every 10.7 minutes (vs. Ryugu's seven hours). This is fast enough that the centrifugal force exceeds gravity on the surface, indicating that it is a solid body, not a conglomeration of sand and rocks. Radar and optical data indicate that it is potentially metallic with a substantial water content. It frequently travels on a path similar to the optimum Earth-Mars transfer orbit.


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