Japan lands Hayabusa-2 spacecraft on Ryugu asteroid in successful mission

Japanese spacecraft to attempt landing on distant asteroid

Workers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency control center applauded Friday as a signal sent from space indicated the Hayabusa2 spacecraft had touched down.

Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft is expected to land on the Ryugu asteroid this week where it will shoot a bullet into the rock to get samples that will be brought to Earth for further analysis, Gizmodo reported on Wednesday. The descent required precise control of the probe, JAXA said.

On its first landing, lasting a few seconds, Hayabusa2 will fire a bullet from a cylindrical tube called a "sampler horn" and collect sand and rock fragments thrown up by the impact.

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If the mission is a success, Hayabusa2 will bring three samples from Ryugu's surface to Earth in December 2020.

Scientists believe the asteroid contains a relatively large amount of organic matter and water from when our solar system was born some 4.6 billion years ago. Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 is approaching the surface of the asteroid Ryugu about 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth.

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.

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Hayabusa-2 will continue to work on the asteroid before theme comes to return to Earth.

Photo: This image, taken from 40km above Ryugu, shows the asteroid's shape and the boulders on its surface.

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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