The Japanese probe Hayabusa2 performed Thursday a "perfect" hit on a remote asteroid, collecting samples under the surface as part of an unprecedented mission that could illuminate the origins of the solar system.
"We have gathered some of the history of the solar system," said project director Yuichi Tsuda at a lively press conference a few hours after confirmation of his successful landing.
"We have never collected materials under the surface of a celestial body farther than the Moon," he added.
"We did it and we managed a world first."
The probe of the size of a fridge landed for the second time on the asteroid around 10:30 (01:30 GMT). Officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) were applauded and applauded, the first data indicating that the hit had been successful.
Confirmation of the landing only occurred after Hayabusa2 had recovered from the asteroid and resumed communication with the control room.
The director of research, Takashi Kubota, told the press that the touchdown operation was "more than perfect".
And Tsuda, with a smile, said that he had noted "1000 points out of 100".
"The probe worked perfectly and the team's preparation work was perfect," he said.
Thursday's brief landing is the second time Hayabusa2 has landed on the desperate Ryugu asteroid, some 300 million kilometers from Earth.
Ryugu, which means "dragon palace" in Japanese, refers to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale.
The multi-year complex mission of Hayabusa2 also involved sending rovers and robots to the surface.
Thursday's game was aimed at collecting immaculate materials under the surface of the asteroid, which could give insight into the nature of the solar system at its birth, about 4.6 billion years ago. .
In April, to touch these crucial materials, an "impactor" was pulled from Hayabusa2 to Ryugu as part of a risky process that created a crater on the surface of the asteroid and stirred materials that had never been exposed to the atmosphere.
Hayabusa2's first hit was in February, when he landed briefly on Ryugu and fired a shot into the surface to throw dust for collection before resuming his holding position.
The second touchdown required special preparations because any problem could lead to the loss of precious materials already collected during his first landing.
"The world is watching"
A photo of the crater taken by the Hayabusa 2 camera after the April blast showed that parts of the asteroid 's surface were covered with "obviously different" materials from the rest of the the surface, told the press the director of the mission Makoto Yoshikawa before the last touchdown.
Scientists hope the probe will have collected unidentified materials suspected to be "ejected" after the blast after briefly landing in an area about 20 meters from the center of the crater.
"It would be safe to say that extremely attractive materials are near the crater," Tsuda said before landing.
The touchdown is the last important part of Hayabusa's mission2 and, when the spacecraft returns to Earth next year to deposit its samples, scientists hope to learn more about the history of the solar system and even about the Origin of life on Earth.
The Hayabusa2 mission has attracted international attention. Queen 's guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May sent a video to the probe team before landing.
"The world is watching, we love you, take care of Hayabusa2," the musician told the team.
Hayabusa2 is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa, the Japanese name for Falcon, who returned with dust samples taken from a smaller potato-shaped asteroid in 2010.
He was hailed as a scientific triumph despite various setbacks during his seven-year epic odyssey.
The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and costs around 30 billion yen ($ 270 million).
The Japanese asteroid probe Hayabusa2 ready for the final touch
© 2019 AFP
The Japanese probe Hayabusa2 allows a perfect touch on an asteroid (July 11, 2019)
recovered on July 11, 2019
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