Tuesday, 02 June, 2020

Japan says space probe landed on asteroid to get soil sample

Hayabusa2 was launched in 2014 Hayabusa2 was launched in 2014
Sandy Nunez | 11 July, 2019, 18:44

Japan's asteroid-circling probe successfully executed a second touchdown on Thursday, collecting another sample from the surface of the space rock.

The Ryugu asteroid is said to hovering in space since the beginning of the solar system.

After the probe started its descent on Wednesday and collected the samples, "the probe's mission is nearly complete, and it will start its journey back to Earth at the end of this year", Kyodo said. Their hope is that the samples provide a window into what the solar system was like at its birth - or clues to how life first developed. A similar mission is planned by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration on another asteroid, Bennu.

Once the Hayabusa-2 returns to our planet, scientists will need to search the probe and take out objects from the Hayabusa-2's operations, including metal from the bomb and bullets, first.

After landing, the Hayabusa 2 is expected to collect samples from beneath the surface of the asteroid, which Japanese scientists hope will shed new light on the evolution of the solar system.

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

"This is the second touchdown, but doing a touchdown is a challenge whether it's the first or the second", Hayabusa 2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda said ahead of the mission.

"The other news, of course, is that [Hayabusa2] is about to resample and bring more materials back off the surface [of Ryugu] back to Earth for us to study", May said in the video message.

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JAXA officials said earlier that the probe appeared to have landed successfully, but confirmation came only after Hayabusa2 lifted back up from the asteroid and resumed communications with the control room.

Hayabusa2 is the successor to the Japanese space agency's first asteroid explorer "Hayabusa", which means falcon in Japanese. "These dark-colored samples may contain organic materials and water", JAXA added.

Because of this, Japan's space agency, JAXA, made a decision to look into possible ways for the spacecraft to land on the asteroid in order to gather some of the rocks scattered around after the impact.

He said JAXA plans to send the spacecraft, which was on its way back to the home position above the asteroid, to examine the landing site from above.

The spacecraft, which is about the size of a refrigerator and powered by solar panels, was launched in 2014 and travelled for three years around the sun to reach Ryugu.

Hayabusa2 is due to return to Earth in late 2020.

The original incarnation collected dust samples from a smaller asteroid, which is described as looking like a potato.

Hayabusa 1 was damaged when it landed on another asteroid, the Itokawa, in 2005.