TOKYO (CNN) – A Japanese spacecraft has reached a diamond-shaped asteroid three years after setting off on its mission to study in regards to the origins of Earth.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived Wednesday on the asteroid Ryugu after leaving on a 300 million-kilometer (186.Four million-mile) journey from Earth that started in December 2014, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mentioned.
The spacecraft is roughly 20 kilometers (12.Four miles) from the asteroid, from the place it’ll launch a projectile into the rock in a bid to excavate samples from beneath the floor.
Later, Hayabusa2 will contact down on the asteroid and accumulate the samples. It will depart Ryugu in December 2019 and eventually return to Earth by the top of 2020.
Beneath their desolate floor, asteroids are believed to include a wealthy treasure-trove of details about the formation of the photo voltaic system billions of years in the past.
The Japanese area company mentioned it hopes to discover a number of the asteroid’s “minerals, water and organic matter” in a bid to “learn about the origin and evolution of Earth.”
The distinctive diamond form of Ryugu initially took the workforce unexpectedly regardless of its years of cautious planning.
“From a distance, Ryugu initially appeared round, then gradually turned into a square before becoming a beautiful shape similar to fluorite — known as the ‘firefly stone’ in Japanese,” the area company mentioned in an announcement.
“This form of Ryugu is scientifically surprising, and also poses a few engineering challenges,” it mentioned of difficulties, together with touchdown, on the unusually formed asteroid.
That mentioned, the workforce has already achieved a mighty feat by reaching the 900-meter-wide rock in any respect — one thing it described because the equal of hitting a 6-centimeter (2.Four-inch) goal at 20,000 kilometers (12,400 miles) away.
“In other words, arriving at Ryugu is the same as aiming at a 6-centimeter target in Brazil from Japan,” the company mentioned.