Japan space probe to collect rock from asteroid - CBBC Newsround

Katie Ramirez
February 22, 2019

All eyes will be on space on Friday when Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tries to land a spacecraft on a far-flung asteroid.

"We confirmed the touchdown", JAXA spokeswoman Chisato Ikuta told AFP.

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

Scientists are continuing to gather and analyse data from the probe, she said.

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. Researchers also hope to find clues into how life started on Earth, according to the report.

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JAXA's plan is for Hayabusa2 to lift off Ryugu and touch back down up to three times.

Photos of Ryugu - which means "Dragon Palace" in Japanese and refers to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale - show an asteroid shaped a bit like a spinning top with a rough surface. The spacecraft successfully reached Ryugu in June of past year, at which time mission scientists determined the landing sites for its rovers.

It is the second Japanese spacecraft to land on an asteroid after Hayabusa touched down on Itokawa in 2005 - the first mission to bring asteroid dust back to Earth.

The rovers have been taking images of the asteroid and performing other functions such as measuring its surface temperature.

The probe shot a bullet into the asteroid's surface in order to make numerous small fragments which will be taken on its return journey.

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