Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

Japanese spacecraft touches down on asteroid to get samples

Japanese spacecraft to attempt landing on distant asteroid Japanese spacecraft attempts landing on distant asteroid
Sandra Phillips | 22 February, 2019, 11:28

Data from the probe, Hayabusa2, showed changes in speed and direction, indicating it had touched down on the asteroid and was blasting back to its holding position, according to officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

A Japanese space probe has touched down on an asteroid more than 300 million kilometres from Earth on a mission to seek clues about the origins of life, Japan's space agency says.

In this photo provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), 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. 21, 2019. Friday's attempt is the first of three such touchdowns planned. If successful, the spacecraft will mine the asteroid for any information on the formation of the solar system.

The touchdown was previously delayed after scientists found the asteroid's surface to be rougher than they had initially anticipated. It only took the spacecraft a second to fire that bullet and take off again, though, so we're now just waiting to hear if it has successfully collected samples.

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

Hayabusa-2 will continue to work on the asteroid before theme comes to return to Earth.

While scientists had originally thought Ryugu's surface would be a "powdery fine regolith", the MASCOT and MINERVA-II1 rovers dropped by the spacecraft were greeted instead by larger-than-expected gravel.

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

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