Hayabusa2 probe completes second asteroid landing, East Asia News & Top Stories

Hayabusa2 landing Japan

News of the landing was greeted with cheers and applause in the JAXA mission control room

Back in February, Japan's area company made history as it correctly landed its Hayabusa-2 spacecraft on a distant asteroid.

It blasted the asteroid with a copper plate and a box of explosives in April in an effort to loosen rocks and expose materials below the surface, then efficiently landed on Ryugu last night to collect up the rock and soil particles.

JAXA's Hayabusa2 project is an asteroid sample-return mission like NASA's OSIRIS-REx.

"The touchdown is successful", spokesman Takayuki Tomobe from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) said.

The earlier 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. Probe has created an artificial crater on the asteroid's surface and will soon begin to collect rocks.

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.

Launched in 2014, the spacecraft has been floating around the asteroid for a year where it has been getting samples of the space rock. Forty minutes after its separation, the projectile was shot at the surface from an altitude of 500 meters forming a 10 meter wide crater.

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

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

At about the size of a large refrigerator and equipped with solar panels to keep it powered, Hayabusa2 is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa - Japanese for falcon.

Now, another tiny hopper has arrived on Ryugu yesterday that has successfully collected samples from the interior of the asteroid. Unlike planets, asteroids are mostly shielded from comic rays and solar winds, holding pristine clues to the solar system's origins.

At a cost of ¥30 billion (~$277 million) the Hayabusa2 space probe is expected to return with Ryugu's samples in December next year. Hayabusa2, for its second sample, would then capture the debris as it floated up.

Hayabusa-2 started its mission to reach Ryugu in 2014, launching from Japan's space port Tanegashima.

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.

The samples will re-enter the atmosphere and parachute down to the ground, somewhere in the Australian outback.

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