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Japanese Spacecraft Collects Underground Soil Samples from Asteroid Ryugu

July 11, 2019, (EIRNS)—The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 yesterday landed on an asteroid 300 million km from Earth, collected underground mineral samples to take back to Earth, and then successfully left the asteroid, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has reported.

The New Scientist published a fascinating story today on how the spacecraft had created a landing crater for itself back in April by firing a copper bullet into the surface; Hayabusa2 then hovered 30 meters above the asteroid today, found the landing marker it had left from April, and then landing for a few seconds inside the crater, long enough “to extend its sampling tube to the ground, shoot a pinball-size bullet to crack the surface and suck up the debris that got blasted off.” On April 25, New Scientist had explained, “The bombing raid aimed to get under the surface of the asteroid and throw up particles from beneath the surface, untouched by cosmic radiation. Later, Hayabusa 2 will scoop up these samples for return to Earth.”

Today Takashi Kubota, a Hayabusa2 project member at JAXA, announced the mission “was a success, a big success. We achieved success in all scheduled procedures,” New Scientist reported. “Everything went perfectly, even better than perfect, as if Hayabusa were reading our minds,” he said.

JAXA plans to send the spacecraft, which was on its way back to the home position above the asteroid, to examine the landing site from above. Hayabusa2 is expected to leave the asteroid to return to Earth at the end of next year, with the samples set for scientific study.

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