Japanese spacecraft touches down on asteroid to get samples

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, staff of the Hayabusa2 Project watch monitors for a safety check at the control room of the JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara near Tokyo Thursday Feb

Japanese spacecraft touches down on asteroid to get samples

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been preparing for Hayabusa2 to make contact with the asteroid for months.

A live webcast of the control room showed dozens of JAXA staff members nervously monitoring data ahead of the touchdown before exploding into applause after receiving a signal from the probe that it had landed.

In September, the space agency successfully landed two small rovers from Hayabusa2 onto Ryugu, publishing a series of photos taken on the asteroid's surface.

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

Asteroids are believed to have formed at the dawn of the solar system and scientists say Ryugu may contain organic matter that may have contributed to life on Earth. Researchers also hope to find clues into how life started on Earth, according to the report.

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Hayabusa-2 will continue to work on the asteroid before theme comes to return to Earth. Friday's attempt is the first of three such touchdowns planned.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter and 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth.

Earlier in September previous year, JAXA successfully landed two miniature rovers on the surface of Asteroid Ryugu.

The 10kg observation robot MASCOT is loaded with sensors, and can take images at multiple wavelengths, investigate minerals with a microscope, gauge surface temperatures and measure magnetic fields. If that succeeds, the craft would then collect samples to eventually be sent back to Earth.

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