A Japanese space probe has successfully landed on an asteroid, 300 million kilometres away from the Earth. This method was used after having been successfully tested on Earth. Its shadow can be seen near the center of the image.
Jim Bridenstine, the administrator of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, expressed in a Twitter post his congratulations on a Hayabusa2 "successful touchdown and retrieval". The spacecraft is created to make as many as three sample collection attempts.
An image captured just after the Hayabusa 2's touchdown on asteroid Ryugu shows the H-shaped shadow of the spacecraft and its solar panels.
The descent was initially delayed by a few hours while the final approach to the asteroid's surface was confirmed, JAXA said, adding that to make up for the time lost, the pace of the descent was sped up.
The next phase of the mission will be to leave the surface of the asteroid with samples in tow and return the materials to Earth for study.
The Planetary Society predicts the machine was on the surface for approximately one second before it returned to a safe distance above the asteroid.
If successful, the probe will be able to collect samples that will eventually be brought back to Earth.
Ryugu is expected to be "rich in water and organic materials", allowing scientists to "clarify interactions between the building blocks of Earth and the evolution of its oceans and life, thereby developing solar system science", JAXA said.
The probe is now scheduled to begin collecting rock samples from Ryugu's surface, according to JAXA's mission plans.
The probe is expected to return to Earth with the collected sample in 2020, when it will drop the sample packet in Woomera, Australia, on a fly-past.
Japan is the only country until now to have brought back materials from a celestial body other than the Moon through the first Hayabusa mission in 2010. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine's guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. They had to perform experiments in the lab before they give the operation a go.