This critical operation, performed on February 22, 2019, constituted the most complex and risky part of the ISAS/JAXA Japanese mission: it required to bring the entire spacecraft in contact with the surface of Ryugu, entirely covered with boulders of all sizes. Its success demonstrates and translates an extraordinary and unique control of space operations by ISAS/JAXA engineers. A second sample collection could be performed in a few months, prior to the return to Earth: Hayabusa2 should leave Ryugu in December 2019, to land on Earth a year later. Our laboratories should thus get in 2021 samples collected at the very surface of one of the most ancient solar system objects, rich in particular of organics which might have played a major role in the evolution towards life on Earth.
The launch of the BepiColombo spacecraft (ESA/JAXA) took place on October 19, 2018 at 10:45 pm from the Ariane 5 site in Kourou. BepiColombo has successfully started its long journey to the planet Mercury, with onboard SIMBIO-SYS, a complex of 3 instruments that will map the surface of the planet with unprecedented spatial resolution and spatial coverage. IAS is co-PI of this instrument through the supply of the main electronics and the implementation of the calibration of the integrated instrument.
Jean-Pierre Bibring, professor emeritus at Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (CNRS/Université Paris Sud), has received on July 15th, 2018 the COSPAR Space Science Award for his contributions to the exploration of the Solar System. This award is the most prestigious of COSPAR (Committee on Space Research), and is granted at each biennial general meeting. Among Jean-Pierre Bibring's numerous involvements, COSPAR has highlighted his responsibilities in Mars Express and Philae/Rosetta.
At 9h35 JST (Japan Standard Time) this morning, Wednesday 27 June 2018, the Hayabusa2 probe reached its "home position", 20 km from the target asteroid "Ryugu", which is currently at a distance of 1.9 AU (astronomical units, 285 million km) from the Earth.
The European Space Agency's programme committee has just selected the ARIEL mission as the 4th intermediate class mission (budget 450 million euros) of the "Cosmic Vision" programme. ARIEL will be launched from the Kourou base in Guyana in May 2028 and will be placed in orbit at Lagrange L2, located 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. ARIEL is a space telescope that will systematically probe the atmospheres of a thousand extrasolar planets, from gas giants to rocky planets, whether hot or temperate around stars of different types. ARIEL will measure the composition and structure of planetary atmospheres, constrain the nature of planetary cores, detect the presence of clouds and study interactions with the host star.