Japan’s Hayabusa2 Probe Made A "Perfect" Touchdown On Primitive Asteroid

Mission control has been keeping a close eye on the probe 300 million kilometres awayMore

The photograph captured four seconds after touchdown shows debris from the asteroid's surface being flung into space.

Following on from its successful "bombing" of the asteroid Ryugu in April of this year, Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft has reached another important milestone.

More than 80 JAXA officials at the control room burst into applause at around 10:20 a.m., when data came in confirming a successful touchdown and the probe's subsequent ascent, with many making a V-sign for victory.

Japan's space agency said Thursday its Hayabusa2 space probe has touched down on an asteroid 250 million kilometers from Earth, and believes that it has collected the first-ever asteroid subsurface samples.

The complex multi-year mission has also involved sending rovers and robots down to the surface. Then, scientists will look inside the sample storage system to see how much pristine material was collected and perform tests on its composition. These dark-colored samples may contain organic materials and water, according to JAXA.

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.

In a brief statement confirming the news, JAXA said: "From the data sent from Hayabusa2, it has been confirmed that the touchdown sequence, including the discharge of a projectile for sampling, was completed successfully".

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To get at these essential materials, in April an "impactor" was sacked from Hayabusa2 in the direction of Ryugu in a unsafe process that created a crater on the asteroid's surface and whips up materials that had not beforehand been exposed to the atmosphere. JAXA said that the Hayabusa 2 will be the first aircraft to bring back particles from below the surface of an asteroid. After blasting a crater, the space probe is now back to collect some rock samples.

After the probe started its descent on Wednesday and collected the samples, "the probe's mission is nearly complete, and it will start its journey back to Earth at the end of this year", Kyodo said.

The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014, and has a price tag of around 30 billion yen ($270 million).

The touchdown will be the last major part of Hayabusa2's mission, and when the probe returns to Earth next year scientists hope to learn more about the history of the solar system and even the origin of life from its samples.

This spacecraft, which is powered by solar panels and is the size of a refrigerator is the successor of JAXA's first asteroid explorer - Hayabusa.

"One thing I'm pretty sure of is that it will throw up some unexpected results", said Bridges, who believes that information from Ryugu samples could make us think again about the early evolution of the solar system.

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