TOKYO – Japan's spacecraft started its approach on Thursday towards a distant asteroid on a mission to collect material that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.
Hayabusa2 dropped for about five hours for a security check, but the unmanned craft still has to be touched as scheduled on Friday morning, said the Japanese Aerospace Agency.
During the touchdown, which will last only seconds, Hayabusa2 will extend a pipe and shoot a bullet like a pinball to the asteroid to blow material under the surface. If everything goes successful then the craft will collect samples that would eventually be returned to the Earth. Friday's visit is the first of three touches of such a planned one.
The short landing will be challenging, due to the uneven surface and boulders. Hayabusa2 is aimed at a 6-meter-diameter cycle (20ft) to avoid barriers. Space agency managers will refer its approach to 500 meters (1,600 feet) above the asteroid surface, and after that it will be alone because it takes 20 minutes to Earth commands reach the art.
JAXA, as known by the Japanese space agency, has compared landing in the area to land on a 20km height (6 miles) height of football above the asteroid.
The asteroid, named in Ryugu after an underground palate in Japanese flats, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter and 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) of Earth.