Space probe landed on asteroid, says Japan

Yuichi Tsuda points at an image showing the surface of the asteroid Ryugu

Japanese asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 has successfully performed its second landing on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, Japan's space agency JAXA said on Thursday.

If the second collection is successful, Hayabusa 2 will have far surpassed its predecessor, but it still faces the hard task of returning to Earth in as intact a condition as possible.

Officials of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced around 11 a.m. on July 11 that they had received data confirming Hayabusa 2 made its second landing on the asteroid about 240 million kilometers from Earth.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea dragon palace in a Japanese folk tale, is about 300 million kilometres (180 million miles) from Earth.

This is one of the most important missions of the spacecraft, which is scheduled to return to Earth next year with the samples gathered from the Ryugu asteroid, which is around 900 metres in diameter with slightly cubical shape and is considered among the oldest bodies in the solar system, reports Efe news.

This time, the probe will collect underground rock samples ejected by the impact of a metal object that was sacked into the surface of the asteroid in April. "Project Manager Tsuda has declared that the 2nd touchdown was a success!", the agency said on its Twitter.

"The probe moved perfectly and the team's preparation work was flawless", he said. Asteroids are building materials leftover from the formation of the Solar System. It is expected to return to Earth in winter 2020.

The spacecraft had started its gradual descent from its home location Wednesday.

The actual landing lasted only a few seconds.

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

Earlier this morning, JAXA also released a series of images taken immediately before and after the spacecraft's touchdown on Ryugu showing the gravel blasted out from beneath the surface that is now scattered across the asteroid's surface.

The landing was a challenge for Hayabusa2 because of the risk of getting hit by dust and debris remaining at the crater, Kubota said.

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

JAXA scientist Seiichiro Watanabe said Thursday's success is significant in learning about the asteroid because samples taken from two sites and at different depths can be compared.

"It is extremely significant to be able to compare soil on the surface and from underground", Watanabe said.

Related:

Comments


Other news