Science

Japan's USD 270 million craft makes second touchdown on distant asteroid

Japan's USD 270 million craft makes second touchdown on distant asteroid”

Hayabusa2 is the first spacecraft to successfully collect underground samples from an asteroid.

More than 80 JAXA officials at the control room burst into applause at around 10:20 a.m., when data came in confirming a successful touchdown and the probe's subsequent ascent, with many making a V-sign for victory.

"We have obtained a piece of the solar system's history", said Hayabusa2's project manager Yuichi Tsuda at a press conference, adding the collection of both surface and subsurface samples would allow for their comparison.

The ambitious landing attempt and asteroid mining mission, which will take place about 185 million miles from Earth, aim to bring back samples that could shed light on the evolution of the solar system.

"Everything went perfectly, even better than ideal, as if Hayabusa were reading our minds", he said.

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Hayabusa2 space probe on Thursday successfully completed a second landing on the asteroid Ryugu after its first landing in February, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.

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

A photo of the crater taken by Hayabusa2's camera after the April blast showed that parts of the asteroid's surface are covered with materials that are "obviously different" from the rest of the surface, mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa told reporters before the latest touchdown. On Thursday, July 11, the spacecraft will touch down on Ryugu a second time to collect some of the pristine, subsurface material exposed by the blast.

The probe, during its second visit to Ryugu having touched down on its targeted area which measures just 7 meters in width, will attach the end of a cylindrical container to the surface of the asteroid and fire a small projectile from it and "suck" up the debris as it floats up the container.

The complex multi-year mission has also involved sending rovers and robots down to the surface.

The second touchdown requires special preparations because any problems could mean the probe loses the precious materials already gathered during its first landing.

With one of its most critical missions now finished, the next task is to get Hayabusa2 to safely return to Earth with the samples, Tsuda said.

Its photos of Ryugu, which means "Dragon Palace" in Japanese and refers to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale, show the asteroid has a rough surface full of boulders.

A Japanese spacecraft landed on a distant asteroid on Thursday and collected underground samples that scientists hope will provide clues to the origin of the solar system billions of years ago, Japan's space agency said.

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

Hayabusa2 has travelled around 4 billion km around the Sun in an elliptical orbit since its launch in December 2014.



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