Published: Fri, July 12, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Japan Lands Probe on Asteroid for Second Time

Japan Lands Probe on Asteroid for Second Time

Japan's Hayabusa2 probe made a "perfect" touchdown Thursday on a distant asteroid, collecting samples from beneath the surface in an unprecedented mission that could shed light on the origins of the solar system.

The Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft shows its landing area on an asteroid to collect samples.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced the news on their social media.

Hayabusa2 then successfully touched down on Ryugu after 10 a.m. Japan time on Thursday.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft created a landing crater on the rocky asteroid in April by dropping a copper impactor. JAXA authorities said before that the test seemed to have landed effectively, however affirmation came simply after Hayabusa2 lifted back up from the space rock and continued interchanges with the control room. There is great anticipation that the material sampled from Ryugu will be key to learning more about the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life.

After completing the touchdown, the spacecraft captured material from the space rock's interior that has been exposed by firing a projectile into the asteroid earlier this year.

Among the Hayabusa2 mission's innovations are its ability to create a crater on the surface of the asteroid, and its transport of the MASCOT robot.

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The ~600 kg spacecraft reached its destination in June 2018 where it observed Ryugu from a distance of about 20 km for a few weeks before planning its first descent. The subsequent touchdown required uncommon arrangements on the grounds that any issues could mean the test would lose the valuable materials officially assembled during its first arrival. Initial images transmitted from Hayabusa2 show sample pieces with different colours and sizes, a sign of diversity even on a tiny asteroid, he said.

At about the size of a large refrigerator and equipped with solar panels to keep it powered, Hayabusa2 is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa - Japanese for falcon.

The Hayabusa2 mission has attracted worldwide attention, with Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May sending a video to the probes team ahead of the landing.

"It would be safe to say that extremely attractive materials are near the crater", Tsuda said before the landing. It is expected to return to Earth in winter 2020.

Price tag for the Hayabusa2 mission, which was launched in December 2014.

Once the samples were gathered during the brief landing on Ryugu, the spacecraft took off again to remain in position near the asteroid. This time, the probe had to collect samples of dust from the subsoil.

The asteroid is about 250 million kilometers away from Earth and the successful mission is said to be of considerable scientific and strategic significance.

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