Japan probe Hayabusa2 makes asteroid landing

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An Earth copy of the sampling instrument that was loaded onto the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. Credit

The spacecraft's landing on the asteroid Ryugu, just 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter, came after an initial attempt in October was delayed because it was hard to pick a landing spot on the asteroid's rocky surface.

Japan's space probe Hayabusa2 began its descent Thursday to an asteroid named Ryugu, which the probe arrived above in June past year, the space agency here said.

The probe was due to fire a bullet at the Ryugu asteroid, to stir up surface matter, which the probe will then collect for analysis back on Earth.

This computer graphic image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Japanese unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 approaching on the asteroid Ryugu.

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.

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Hayabusa2 was onRyugu to collecting its data before returning back to Earth.

The scientists are aiming to land the probe on a far smaller landing area than originally planned that is now just 6 meters in diameter.

The brief landing will be challenging, because of the uneven and boulder-covered surface.

Hayabusa2, which arrived into the vicinity of the Ryugu asteroid in June after a more than three-year, 3.2-billion-km journey, touched down on the rocky asteroid where it will collect samples. Researchers also hope to find clues into how life started on Earth, according to the report.

The samples gathered on Ryugu could help answer questions about the origins of life and the solar system, including whether elements from space aided the rise of life on our planet.

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