Japanese spacecraft lands on asteroid 300 million kilometers from Earth

Japanese spacecraft to attempt landing on distant asteroid

Japanese spacecraft attempts landing on distant asteroid

This computer graphic image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Japanese unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 approaching on the asteroid Ryugu.

In what may sound like a scene from a sci-fi film, a Japanese probe is about to land on an asteroid 340 million kilometers from Earth, take aim and fire.

The probe is scheduled to touchdown on the asteroid on Friday morning and begin collecting rock samples from Ryugu's surface, JAXA said, adding that if any abnormalities were detected in the landing procedure, the mission would be immediately aborted. Three such touchdowns are planned.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency staff, as they confirmed the spacecraft Hayabusa2 made a tricky maneuver, at the control room of the JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara, near Tokyo.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 metres (3,000 feet) in diameter and 280 million kilometres (170 million miles) from Earth.

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During this time it will conduct a number of exploratory activities in an attempt to try to find clues about the solar system's evolution and the beginning of life itself.

The mission has not been completely plain sailing and the probe's landing was originally scheduled for a year ago.

While scientists had originally thought Ryugu's surface would be a "powdery fine regolith", the MASCOT and MINERVA-II1 rovers dropped by the spacecraft were greeted instead by larger-than-expected gravel.

Hayabusa-2 will continue to work on the asteroid before theme comes to return to Earth.

Scientists are already receiving data from these probes deployed on the surface of the asteroid.

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