Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2 touches down on asteroid to collect samples

Japanese spacecraft to attempt landing on distant asteroid

According to the New York Times, the spacecraft has gathered samples from Ryugu, which is close to the Earth and is a potentially hazardous asteroid.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) associate professor Yuichi Tsuda holds a banner reading "success" in front of an image of the Hayabusa 2 space probe's landing on the Ryugu asteroid, 340 million kilometers from Earth, at JAXA's facility in Sagamihara, south of Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo February 22, 2019.

Japan's space probe Hayabusa2 began its descent Thursday to an asteroid named Ryugu, which the probe arrived above in June past year, the space agency here said.

Prior to that, two small robotic rovers also launched from Hayabusa2 successfully landed on Ryugu on September 22.

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.

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The mission has not been completely plain sailing and the probe's landing was originally scheduled for past year.

The brief landing will be challenging, because of the uneven and boulder-covered surface.

The Hayabusa2 mission, with a price tag of around 30 billion yen ($270 million), was launched in December 2014 and is scheduled to return to Earth with its samples in 2020.

The agency said in total, Hayabusa2 is scheduled to make three landings on the asteroid and collect rock samples and will stay close to Ryugu for one and a half years.

This operation was supposed to happen back in October, but the ground team discovered from Ryugu's surface has much bigger gravel than they thought.

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