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Boop! A sample of a Japanese spacecraft extracted from the Ryugu asteroid

It looks like Japan Hayabusa2 caught his second memory of the Ryugu asteroid, marking one of the last important milestones of the probe visit.

Today 's maneuver (July 10) was a calculated risk, while mission staff was looking at assessing the scientific value of a subsurface sample, with the possibility that failure would jeopardize the sample that the team believes is on board the probe. Hayabusa2 has more than one rover to deploy on space before he leaves for the end of the year.

Related: Pow! The Japanese Hayabusa2 launches a crater on the asteroid Ryugu (Photo)

The maneuver was stretched for hours when Hayabusa2 of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) slowly lowered to the surface. At 100 meters (30 meters) above the surface, the probe located the white and bright target marker that it had dropped during a preparatory procedure.

This marker is located 20 m north of the site where, in April, the spacecraft deployed a copper bomb create an artificial crater in order to look under the surface of the asteroid. (The JAXA had decided that the sampling sites located inside the crater were too rocky and could compromise the safety of the spacecraft.)

Finally, around 9:15 pm EDT (July 11, 2005), Hayabusa2 sank to the ground, fired a tantalum ball into the space stone and – if all went as planned – was collected some of the resulting debris. This debris must be extra-special – not any stone from space, but immaculate materials extracted from under the surface of the space stone by the formation of the crater.

Ryugu does not have any atmosphere or magnetic field, the surface of the asteroid is exposed to all the dangers of space. The cosmic rays and charged particles of the solar wind that run from the sun hit Ryugu and his companions, altering the rock on the outside of these bodies.

But under these shells, asteroids contain the the rubble left by the birth of the planets. This is why scientists hope that the current procedure will help them understand how the solar system has formed: by allowing them to analyze not only the crater created by Hayabusa2 on the surface, but also to bring this stone into laboratories on Earth.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has been designed with three compartments for storing samples. Mission staff thought that two of these compartments already contained pieces of Ryugu; now, they hope the third will do the same.

But as long as the shuttle will not have made its way to Earth and scientists can penetrate inside this system of storing samples, they are not certain of what 's going on. there is in it. Once the samples arrive, the team will first eliminate the operations of the spacecraft; The bombs and bullets used during the mission were chosen because they do not exist on asteroids and will therefore be easy to identify and dispose of.

Then it's the science of asteroids, whatever it is. The JAXA encountered difficulties during the sampling phase of Hayabusa's previous mission2 and was found with tiny grains of an asteroid called Itokawa in 2010. Still, scientists have again made discoveries based on this dust. For example, they discovered that there was water on the rock and Itokawa seemed to be built from rubble formed during a large collision. If Hayabusa2 has taken larger chunks of asteroids, it is more matter for more science.

Of course, all this will have to wait until the Space Shuttle returns to Earth. He still has a job to do: deploy a small rover, called MINERVA-II2, later this summer. Then, in November or December, Hayabusa2 will return home and hand over his bonus by the end of next year.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her. @meghanbartels. follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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