The turn of the decade saw a huge surge of interest in asteroid mining, but now this would-be industry has flopped. Can a tiny Japanese probe revive it?
20 February 2019
THE space-age gold rush is dead. Long live the space-age gold rush. On 22 February, Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft will touch down on the asteroid Ryugu and start taking samples that it will eventually return to Earth.
The probe will fire a bullet at Ryugu and collect dust thrown up by the impact. Later this year, sampling will get more extreme: Hayabusa 2 will use explosives to blast a large lump of copper into the surface. This will create an artificial crater and reveal the asteroid’s insides.
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