Hayabusa2 is the second sample return mission from an asteroid after Hayabusa mission. The target asteroid is (162173) Ryugu, which is a C-type asteroid. The main science objective is to investigate organic matters and water at the beginning of the solar system. The technological purpose is to maturate the new technology developed by Hayabusa and to develop other new technology for space missions.
Hayabusa2 was launched December 3, 2014 by an H-IIA launch vehicle from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Just one year later, on December 3, 2015, Hayabusa2 came back to the Earth to execute the Earth gravity assist, which was successfully done and its orbit was changed toward Ryugu. We observed the Earth and the moon by using the remote sensing instruments on board at the Earth gravity assist. Then after three long-term ion engine operations, Hayabusa2 will arrive at Ryugu in June or July of 2018. At first, we will observe Ryugu carefully and decide the landing place. Then we will release the lander and rovers, execute touchdown once or twice, and try the experiment of the impactor. Hayabusa2 will leave Ryugu at the end of 2019 and bring back the capsule to the Earth at the end of 2020.
At present, we are just before arriving at Ryugu. In order to prepare for the operations near the asteroid, we have done two kinds of trainings, that is, Landing Site Selection (LSS) training and Real-Time Integrated Operation (RIO) training. We hope we can explore Ryugu smoothly and we are sure that we can study a lot of new things from Ryugu.
NASA is discussing "what they want to know next 30 years [science]” and “what it takes to make that happens [technology]” in order to answer the fundamental questions “Are we alone?” and “What is the origin and history of our solar system and extrasolar systems?” under the frame of (i) Discovery and (ii) Exploration of other worlds and cosmos and (iii) Development of necessary technologies. Searching for life and habitable environments outside Earth will be a driving force for many NASA projects. Next 30 years will be the decades of “sample returns” from asteroids and Mars. With the accumulation of scientific knowledge and technology through various missions including the exploration to Mars, NASA is paving a way for human exploration and noticeably shifting its focus to the water world Europa. When James Webb Telescope is put into the orbit in year 2018, it will detect and analyze water, oxygen, methane, ozone, temperature, surface pressure and many more on planets, especially seven exoplanets of TRAPPIST 1 solar system. The close comparative study of exoplanets and water and icy worlds in our solar system is expected as an effort to understand “life and its origin”. NASA will continue to examine the possibility to transform Mars into a habitable environment. This talk is intended to show the big picture under the overarching themes of NASA missions so that audience have a good foundation from which they can nurture their abilities to forecast what NASA and thus the international space exploration community try to achieve and where they will be next 10 years, 20 years, and 30 years.