Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

CBBC Newsround: Japan space probe to collect rock from asteroid

CBBC Newsround: Japan space probe to collect rock from asteroid

Hayabusa2 will eventually fire an "impactor" to blast out material from underneath Ryugu's surface, allowing the collection of "fresh" materials unexposed to millennia of wind and radiation. If the probe's mission on the asteroid is a success, it could help scientists understand how the Earth was formed in the early solar system.

The spacecraft's landing on the asteroid Ryugu, just 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter, came after an initial attempt in October was delayed because it was hard to pick a landing spot on the asteroid's rocky surface.

The Hayabusa-2 probe will try to grab some of the 1km-wide asteroid, Ryugu.

The Planetary Society predicts the machine was on the surface for approximately one second before it returned to a safe distance above the asteroid.

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Data from the probe, Hayabusa2, showed changes in speed and direction, indicating it had touched down on the asteroid and was blasting back to its holding position, according to officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The 600-kg Hayabusa2, which was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan in December 2014, has experienced no problems up until now, throughout its journey totaling 3.2 billion km.

JAXA expects its groundbreaking spacecraft to head back to Earth at some point by the end of the year. The return of these samples to Earth is a major goal of the mission.

While scientists had originally thought Ryugu's surface would be a "powdery fine regolith", the MASCOT and MINERVA-II1 rovers dropped by the spacecraft were greeted instead by larger-than-expected gravel.

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