Image: JAXA Earlier today, Japan’s Hayabusa2 may have become the first probe in history to collect material from beneath the surface of an asteroid—a mission that could yield important new insights about the early stages of our solar system.
“From the data sent from Hayabusa2, it has been confirmed that the touchdown sequence, including the discharge of a projectile for sampling, was completed successfully,” the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced in a press release issued earlier today.
This is now the second time Hayabusa2 has visited the surface of Ryugu—an 870-meter-wide (2,854-foot) asteroid located 300 million kilometers (186 million miles) from Earth.
The first touchdown happened this past February, during which time the probe fired a projectile onto Ryugu’s surface, kicking up surface material, which it then collected.
Image: JAXA This second operation to visit the asteroid’s surface began on July 9, with Hayabusa2's slow journey to the surface starting on July 10.
The touchdown itself lasted just a few seconds, during which time the probe fired a small projectile onto the surface.
This mission was potentially risky, as Hayabusa2 had already attempted to gather surface samples, and failure here could’ve disabled the spacecraft, preventing it from delivering its valuable cargo back to Earth.