After reaching a safe distance of 55 metres Japanese asteroid reconnaissance craft “Hayabusa-2” successfully launched two smaller “MINERVA” scouts to rendezvous with the surface. During the approach and shortly after landing on the asteroid MINERVA captured some decent snapshots of Ryugus rocky terrain.
Luckily Ryugu generates a small enough gravitational field that MINERVA can navigate around the circumference of the asteroid by “hopping” from place to place, every leap lasting about 15 minutes long.
However, by the time MINERVA successfully landed on the asteroid Hayabusa-2 already drifted to the opposite side, – so the two scouts needed to traverse some length of terrain before re-establishing communications with the “mothership”.
One last MINERVA has yet to be deployed. Shortly following that a larger MASCOT lander will depart from Hyabusa -2 for initial inspection of the asteroids magnetic and mineral qualities. Finally, the mission will conclude with Ryugu-2s descent to the surface, armed with a “small carry on impactor” for clearing a crater on the asteroid.
The impactor is composed of a 2-kilogram plate launched by explosives to reach a speed of 4400 miles per hour. Hopefully it will collide with the asteroid dislodging enough material for the craft to sample deeper mineral layers and analyze the after-effects of contact, whether that be a change in orbital trajectory or otherwise.
Several plans for re-directing the suspected course of an asteroid have been proposed by scientists all around the world. These include the more obvious contingency plan for stopping a collision with Earth, as well as a complex strategy for rounding up asteroids to mine ice water or precious metal.
By analyzing Ryugus reaction to the small carry on impactor we may be able to extrapolate a suitable large scale operation for the future. Furthermore, by extracting two samples from Ryugu we can grasp a better understanding of an asteroids probable composition and the accuracy of our attempts at spectrographic analysis earlier on. This would have implications for asteroid mining by determining the quality of initial readings conducted by a telescope back here on Earth.
There’s a tremendous, unfathomable amount of money to be made from asteroid mining. For example, an estimate clocks the total wealth of the asteroid belt at 100 billion dollars for every person on Earth. NASA is currently planning a mission to one asteroid worth 10 000 quadrillion dollars, and there are over 1 million asteroids in the solar system. Of course the economy would eventually scale to whatever resources are available, however the first organizations should make the most money.