In a first, a Japanese spacecraft appears to have collected samples from inside an asteroid - Thu 11 Jul 20:59 GMT

Hayabusa2’s second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu went well, engineers say

  Japan’s Hayabusa2 successfully completed its second touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu and probably captured material from its interior that was exposed by firing a projectile into the asteroid earlier this year.

  Since then it has conducted remote observations, released several rovers that hopped around on the asteroid, and made a February touchdown to retrieve surface samples.

  To get interior material, Hayabusa2 in April released a tiny spacecraft that exploded and sent a nonexplosive, 2-kilogram copper projectile into Ryugu, creating a crater.

  “But we expect that we obtained some subsurface samples,” said project scientist Seiichiro Watanabe, a planetary scientist at Nagoya University in Japan.

  The team believes comparing the surface samples subjected to eons of space weathering and the more pristine material from the interior will provide clues to the origins and evolution of the solar system.

  Watanabe noted that NASA’s in-progress Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer mission also plans to bring samples from an asteroid, named Bennu, back to Earth in 2023.

  But at least for the near future, Japan is the only nation that will have acquired samples from both the surface and interior of an asteroid, Watanabe said.