Japan's asteroid probe Hayabusa2 set for final touchdown

Japanese Probe Hayabusa2 Successfully Performs 2nd Touchdown on Ryugu Asteroid

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.

It took it three-and-a-half years to get to Ryugu, but the return journey should be significantly shorter because Earth and the asteroid will be closer when Hayabusa2 sets off for home, thanks to their orbit paths.

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. In April it blasted a small crater on the surface of the rock using a device packed with plastic explosive, to collect samples from deeper within the asteroid. A similar mission is planned by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration on another asteroid, Bennu.

The initial touchdown on the asteroid was postponed from October a year ago, as JAXA found the surface of the asteroid, which at the time was about 300 million km from Earth and 900 meters in diameter, to be rockier than it first thought and needed more time to ensure the safe landing of the probe. JAXA said the samples may contain water and organic materials.

Engineers and technicians in the spacecraft's control room near Tokyo could be seen erupting into cheers and applause on a YouTube live stream when Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda proclaimed the operation a success just before 11 a.m. local time.

Hayabusa 2 first arrived at the asteroid in June 2018.

Hayabusa2's first touchdown was in February, when it landed briefly on Ryugu and fired a bullet into the surface to puff up dust for collection, before blasting back to its holding position.

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Japan has successfully landed its Hayabusa 2 spacecraft on a distant asteroid for the second time.

Thursday's mission was to land inside the crater and collect underground samples that scientists believe contain more valuable data.

The spacecraft still has to release another lander on the asteroid before returning to Earth.

Hayabusa-2 started its mission to reach Ryugu in 2014, launching from Japan's space port Tanegashima. By analyzing them, the scientists would learn more about what forms asteroids and find out more information about the early days of our solar system.

The 600-kg Hayabusa2, which was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan on December 2014, has experienced no problems, up until now, throughout its journey totaling 3.2 billion km.

It was hailed as a scientific triumph regardless of various setbacks throughout its epic seven-year odyssey.

Hayabusa2 observes the surface of Ryugu with its camera and sensing equipment but has also dispatched two tiny MINERVA-II rover robots as well as the French-German robot MASCOT to help surface observation.

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