Collaboration Deepens Between UA and Japan
Recent overseas visit by a University delegation indicates that the relationship will extend beyond the parallel asteroid-sample missions of OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa 2.
A strengthened collaboration between the University of Arizona and Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science and the University of Tokyo was the result of a trip overseas earlier this month by a delegation from the UA and the Arizona Board of Regents.
The UA and ISAS are part of parallel missions designed to bring back asteroid samples that could hold clues to the formation of the solar system and the origin of life-seeding molecules on Earth. The UA leads the OSIRIS-REx mission under a contract with NASA. ISAS, which is part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, leads the Hayabusa 2 mission.
Hayabusa 2, the successor to the first asteroid sample mission ever undertaken, in 2005, is already en route to the asteroid 1999JU3. It will be exploring that space rock at the same time that OSIRIS-REx, scheduled to launch in a little more than a year, will be exploring the asteroid Bennu.
Representatives of the two missions met last fall on the UA campus. But the recent visit has taken the relationship to another level, according to Tim Swindle, head of the UA’s Department of Planetary Sciences and Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who went on the weeklong trip and said he envisions UA representatives and the Japanese shuttling back and forth every few months.
Also on the trip from the UA were President Ann Weaver Hart; Kimberly Andrews Espy, senior vice president for research; Mike Proctor, vice president of global initiatives; Jon Dudas, senior associate to the president; Buell Jannuzi, head of the Department of Astronomy; and Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission.
Eileen Klein, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, and Greg Patterson, vice chair of ABOR, also were part of the delegation.
The trip provided another example of how the UA has extended its global reach. In recent months, the University signed an agreement to be the preferred higher-education partner for Expo 2020 Dubai. It maintains other robust education and research-based partnerships with agencies and organizations in Mexico, Latin America and Cuba.
Swindle said that in addition to the things that the two asteroid missions will learn from each other, there is the possibility of working more closely on identifying other missions. Another collaboration will involve the UA’s Steward Observatory and the University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory, or TAO, in work on a 6.5-m infrared telescope.
However, OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa 2 are front and center for now.
Hayabusa 2 "will get there a little before OSIRIS-REx gets to Bennu," Swindle said. "But both missions will be at their asteroids at the same time. As Dante Lauretta puts it, the Japanese are jumping off the cliff first."
The missions could yield similar data from similar asteroids, but they are tricky.
"The sampling will be difficult," Swindle said. "Each mission has the ability to try more than once. The Japanese will learn, and we’ll learn from watching them. We’ll share nuts and bolts on analyzing data."
TopicsScience and Technology
University of Arizona in the News