Japan’s ambitious Hayabusa2 probe (Photo Credit: Twitter)
Japan's Hayabusa2 probe on Thursday successfully landed on a distant asteroid with an aim to collect samples that could shed light on the history of the solar system.
As soon as the Hayabusa2 touched down on a distant asteroid, the scientists showed the “V” for victory signs. Japan’s space agency confirmed the landing of Hayabusa2 on asteroid.
"The control room received Doppler data showing that the probe appears to have touched down successfully," Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spokesman Takayuki Tomobe told AFP. "But Doppler only shows the speed and altitude so we will need definitive confirmation," he added.
However, additional data readings are expected later in the day.
It is to be noted that the space agency said that the probe had been working normally above Ryugu asteroid, some 300m km (185m miles) from Earth. The much-anticipated touchdown was only brief, and intended to allow Hayabusa2 to collect samples blasted from beneath Ryugu's surface.
The mission hopes to collect pristine materials from beneath the surface of the asteroid that could provide insights into what the solar system was like at its birth.
The touchdown is the second time Hayabusa2 has landed on Ryugu, after a first successful landing in February. But the latest landing required special preparation to ensure the precious samples already aboard Hayabusa2 would not be lost.
“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, had told reporters ahead of the mission. “The whole team will do our best so that we’ll be able to complete the operation,” he had said.
Importantly, the Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014, and has a price tag of around 30 billion yen ($270 million). The probe is scheduled to return to Earth with its samples in 2020.