UPSC PRELIMS 2019 : Hayabusa-2 is the first spacecraft to sample the inside of an asteroid

Hayabusa-2 is the first spacecraft to sample the inside of an asteroid

Topic: Hayabusa-2 is the first spacecraft to sample the inside of an asteroid

Topic in Syllabus: Science & Technology



Hayabusa-2 is the first spacecraft to sample the inside of an asteroid

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which successfully made its second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu has become the first ever space probe to gather material from beneath the surface of an asteroid.


Hayabusa 2:

  • Hayabusa 2 was launched in December 2014 and is planned to complete a mission of six years.
  • It arrived at Ryugu in July 2018 and will spend 18 months studying the asteroid before making its return to Earth in December 2020.
  • It picked up samples of the material by shooting down a projectile from its one-metre long cylindrical horn, which then captured the fragments rebounding from the surface, stated the release.
  • The purpose of drilling is to collect samples for possible clues to the origin of the solar system.


Structure of Ryugu

  • Ryugu is a rubble-pile asteroid: A collection of rocks and dust held together loosely by gravity.
  • Its surface is also strewn with an unusual number of boulders — more per unit surface area than any asteroid explored so far.



  • It returned samples to Earth in 2010 marking the first time sample materials from an asteroid were brought back to Earth.



  • Asteroids are actually minor planets which can neither be classified either as a planet or as a comet.
  • These are generally in the direct orbit around the Sun.
  • The larger forms of asteroids are also known as planetoids.


Why Study Asteroids?

  • Asteroids, like comets, are primitive bodies that can be considered to be the building blocks of the early solar system. They hold a record of the birth and initial evolution of the solar system.
  • Larger planets like Earth went through a more complex evolution over which the pristine materials were melted and altered significantly. Due to this change, the materials found on large planets do not hold information into their early stages of formation.
  • Comets and asteroids, formed early in the evolution of the Solar System, retain a record of when, where and in what conditions they were formed. Exploration of these primitive bodies is essential in gaining insight into the formation of the Solar System.


Sample Question:

What is the difference between asteroids and comets?
1. Asteroids are small rocky planetoids, while comets are formed of frozen gases held together by rocky and metallic material.
2. Asteroids are found mostly between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, while comets are found mostly between Venus and Mercury.
3. Comets show a perceptible glowing tail, while asteroids do not.


Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

a. 1 and 2 only

b. 1 and 3 only

c. 3 only

d. 1, 2 and 3


Answer: b

Asteroids, also called as minor planets or planetoids, are rocky remnants left over from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. They are found orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter within the main asteroid belt.
Comets are cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust. When a comet’s come close to the sun, it heats up and throws dust and gases into a giant glowing head. The dust and gases form a tail that stretches away for millions of kilometers.
Thus statement 2 is wrong and 1 and 3 are right. Therefore ans is option b