Hayabusa2 makes second touchdown on Ryugu asteroid and sends pictures

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Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which successfully made its second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu on July 12, 2019, has become the first ever space probe to gather material from beneath the surface of an asteroid, the Nature reported.

A Japanese spacecraft has successfully landed on an asteroid.

Until then there is no way of knowing how much material has been collected in each touchdown operation, mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Institute of Space (JAXA) Sagamihara told Nature.

To get at those vital materials, in April an "impactor" was terminated from Hayabusa2 towards Ryugu in a hazardous procedure that made a hole on the space rock's surface and worked up material that had not recently been presented to the environment. It landed inside that crater on Thursday and collected samples that scientists believe contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.

JAXA hopes that an analysis of the samples could shed light at the conditions and chemistry within the early days of our Solar System, a few 4.Five billion years ago.

It blasted the asteroid with a copper plate and a box of explosives in April in an effort to loosen rocks and expose materials below the surface, then efficiently landed on Ryugu last night to collect up the rock and soil particles. "We took a historic step", said Yuichi Tsuda, the Hayabusa2 project manager.

The complex multi-year mission has also involved sending rover and robots down to the surface. "For the future missions, Hayabusa2, the second touchdown, will play a very important role".

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The second touchdown required special preparations, because any problems could mean the probe would lose the precious materials gathered during its first landing.

JAXA scientist Seiichiro Watanabe said Thursday's success is significant in learning about the asteroid because samples taken from two sites and at different depths can be compared. Researchers could have called it a day after this success, but they chose to take a risk and stick around the asteroid for a bit longer.

Hayabusa2 is engaged in the world's first attempt to create an artificial crater on an asteroid and collect samples from its subsurface rocks.

The probe launched in December 2014 and arrived at the dice-shaped space rock on June 27, 2018.

Yesterday's brief landing is the second time that Hayabusa2 has touched down on the desolate asteroid Ryugu, some 300 million kilometres from Earth.

At a cost of ¥30 billion (~$277 million) the Hayabusa2 space probe is expected to return with Ryugu's samples in December next year.

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