Japanese spacecraft successfully shoots and lands on asteroid Ryugu

The Japanese space agency has announced that the Hayabusa2 spacecraft has successfully landed on the asteroid Ryugu. The probe fired a projectile prior to landing so that material from the asteroid could be collected upon landing.

The Japanese space agency JAXA reports that based on a data analysis, it has been determined that the spacecraft successfully fired a projectile at the asteroid and that Hayabusa2 is in nominal condition. Landing at Ryugu has thus been successfully completed. The landing, which was necessary to gather material, was short-lived; the probe is now back in orbit around the asteroid. In the coming weeks or months, Hayabusa2 will target the asteroid twice more to once again collect material from the bottom or interior of the asteroid.

The bottom material successfully captured by the spacecraft will eventually return to Earth, where the probe is due to arrive in December 2020. The material and the resulting data should shed more light on the early history of our solar system and the role that carbon-rich asteroids like Ryugu may have played in the origin of life on Earth. It also concerns the processes that take place in the asteroid. According to Japanese scientists of the project, it will yield a wealth of information.

The landing on the boulder should have taken place in October last year, but that did not happen, because it was seen that the surface was much rockier than expected. In October last year, the German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, which traveled with Hayabusa2, landed safely on the asteroid, as did two other rovers.

Hayabusa2 was launched in December 2014. The journey to asteroid 1999 JU3 Ryugu took about three and a half years. This is a type C asteroid about 300 million kilometers from Earth.