Japan's Hayabusa2 space probe begins descent toward asteroid

Japan's Hayabusa2 space probe begins descent toward asteroid

Japan's Hayabusa2 space probe is believed to have successfully landed on an asteroid 340 million km from Earth, the nation's space agency said Friday. The descent required precise control of the probe, JAXA said. "It felt very long until the moment the touchdown happened", Hayabusa2 mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa told reporters, adding that the complicated procedure took less time than expected and appeared to go without a hitch.

During the touchdown, Hayabusa2 is programmed to extend a pipe and shoot a pinball-like object into the asteroid to blow up material from beneath the surface.

The asteroid is thought to contain relatively large amounts of organic matter and water from some 4.6 billion years ago when the solar system was born. Researchers also hope to find clues into how life started on Earth, according to the report.

If the mission is a success, Hayabusa2 will bring three samples from Ryugu's surface to Earth in December 2020.

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The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 metres (3,000 feet) in diameter and 280 million kilometres (170 million miles) from Earth.

Scientists are already receiving data from these probes deployed on the surface of the asteroid.

The probe shot a bullet into the asteroid's surface in order to make numerous small fragments which will be taken on its return journey.

Earlier in September past year, JAXA successfully landed two miniature rovers on the surface of Asteroid Ryugu.

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