Japanese spacecraft touches down on asteroid to get samples

Cristina Cross
February 22, 2019

During the touchdown, Hayabusa2 is programmed to extend a pipe and shoot a pinball-like object into the asteroid to blow up material from beneath the surface.

Japanese Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama said the space agency had concluded from its data after the first touchdown that the steps to collect samples were performed successfully.

A Japanese space probe has touched down on an asteroid more than 300 million kilometres from Earth on a mission to seek clues about the origins of life, Japan's space agency says.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the spacecraft after a long period of extensive planning, and, according to a press release, it has now recreated an asteroid and bullet on Earth for relevant experiments.

"I expect this will lead to a leap, or new discoveries, in planetary science", he said.

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Hayabusa2's mission will be completed when it returns to the Earth in 2020 with the samples of rocks it has collected from Ryugu, which is thought to contain water and other materials that could possibly support life.

JAXA's plan is for Hayabusa2 to lift off Ryugu and touch back down up to three times.

Prior to that, two small robotic rovers also launched from Hayabusa2 successfully landed on Ryugu on September 22.

That probe returned from a smaller, potato-shaped, asteroid in 2010 with dust samples despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year Odyssey and was hailed as a scientific triumph.

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