Hayabusa2, a Japanese spacecraft, on Thursday landed on a distant asteroid named ‘Ryugu’ and collected underground samples that will help scientists to study the origin of the solar system billions of years ago.
It is to be noted that the Hayabusa2, the first spacecraft to successfully collect underground samples from an asteroid, was launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa).
In a statement, the Jaxa said that the data showed Hayabusa2 touched down and rose safely after collecting the samples from Ryugu. As soon as the Hayabusa2 rose from a distant asteroid with underground samples, the scientists stood up, cheered and applauded.
"It was a success, a big success," said Takashi Kubota, a Hayabusa2 project member. "We achieved success in all scheduled procedures," he added.
"We obtained pieces of the history of the solar system. We took a historic step," said Yuichi Tsuda, the Hayabusa2 project manager. He further said, "Nobody has collected and brought home underground materials from anywhere further than the moon."
“The samples had been placed in a container, which will be moved to a capsule for secure storage. With one of its most critical missions now finished, the next task is to get Hayabusa2 to safely return to Earth with the samples,” Tsuda added.
Importantly, the touchdown was the second time Hayabusa2 has landed on Ryugu, after a first successful landing in February. The spacecraft is expected to leave the asteroid later this year and return home at the end of next year.
Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014, and has a price tag of around 30 billion yen ($270 million). On the other hand, Ryugu is named after an undersea dragon palace in a Japanese folktale and is about 300 million kilometres from Earth. Ryugu, about 900 metres in diameter, is extremely rocky on its surface and has signs organic compounds.