Japan's Hayabusa2 probe has touched down on the far-off Ryugu asteroid, returning to the rock's surface to collect more samples on a mission to learn about the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
If the second collection is successful, Hayabusa 2 will have far surpassed its predecessor, but it still faces the hard task of returning to Earth in as intact a condition as possible.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said it has confirmed data showing Hayabusa2 touched down and rose safely after collecting the samples as planned.
The asteroid is about 250 million kilometers away from Earth and the successful mission is said to be of considerable scientific and strategic significance.
The second landing near that crater is meant to collect what JAXA hopes are the world's first underground samples from an asteroid.
"This is the second touchdown, but doing a touchdown is a challenge whether it's the first or the second", Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 project manager, said during a press conference.
The Hayabusa2 mission has attracted global attention, with Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May sending a video to the probe's team ahead of the landing.
Thursday's mission was to land inside that crater to collect scattered samples that scientists believe contain more valuable clues to the origin of the solar system.
Hayabusa2 had created itself a landing crater in April by dropping a copper impactor.Читайте также: ‘Black box’ reveals last moments of doomed Himalayan climbers
Asteroids are rocky remnants left over from the formation of the solar system.
As it takes 14 minutes to transmit information between Earth and the probe, raising the possibility the control room could be too late to intervene if a problem arises, Hayabusa2 operated autonomously once it reached 30 meters above the surface.
The spacecraft had started its gradual descent from its home location Wednesday. They were confident that a second landing could be pulled off.
Plans call for Hayabusa 2 to leave Ryugu by the end of this year and return to Earth toward the end of 2020.
"It would be safe to say that extremely attractive materials are near the crater", Tsuda said before the landing.
John Bridges, a professor of planetary science at the UK's University of Leicester, told CNN that the Hayabusa 2 mission is interesting because of Ryugu's C-class status.
"It is extremely significant to be able to compare soil on the surface and from underground", Watanabe said.При любом использовании материалов сайта и дочерних проектов, гиперссылка на обязательна.
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