The Japanese space agency said data from the Hayabusa2 space probe indicates that it successfully landed on a distant asteroid on Thursday and completed its historic mission to collect underground samples that the scientists hope will provide clues about the origin of the solar system.
Hayabusa2 had created a landing crater in April by dropping a copper impactor. Thursday's mission was to land inside that crater and collect underground samples that scientists believe contain more valuable data.
Hayabusa2 is the first to successfully collect samples of underground soil from an asteroid and anticipates a similar mission planned by the US aeronautics and US space administration team in another asteroid.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said it had confirmed the data showing that Hayabusa2 was touched and rescued after collecting the samples as planned.
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Takashi Kubota, a member of the Hayabusa2 project at JAXA, was radiant when he presented himself at an unexpected press conference to announce the result. As the success was announced at the command center, everyone stood up, applauded and applauded, some of them showing signs of victory.
"It was a success, a great success," said Kubota. "We have achieved success in all scheduled procedures."
On Wednesday, the spaceship had begun its gradual descent from its original position. On Thursday, at the final landing stage, Hayabusa2 hovered 30 meters above the asteroid and quickly found its landing marker left by the previous mission.
The actual landing was a few seconds. During the touchdown, Hayabusa2 would extend the sampling tube to the ground, fire a pinball-sized projectile to break the surface and suck up the debris that was detonated. Landing was a challenge for Hayabusa2 due to the risk of being run over by dust and debris left in the crater, Kubota said.
"Everything went perfectly, even better than perfect, as if Hayabusa were reading our minds," he said.
He said that JAXA plans to send the spacecraft, which was returning to its initial position above the asteroid, to examine the landing site from the top.
The asteroid, named Ryugu after a palace of the underwater dragon in a Japanese folk tale, is located about 300 million kilometers from Earth.
Hayabusa2 is expected to leave the asteroid to return to Earth at the end of next year, with samples for scientific study.