Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 will attempt to land on distant asteroid. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Japanese spacecraft to attempt landing on distant asteroid

TOKYO — A Japanese spacecraft began its approach Thursday toward 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’s descent was delayed for about five hours for a safety check, but the unmanned craft is still due to touch down as scheduled on Friday morning, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

During the touchdown, which will last just seconds, Hayabusa2 will extend a pipe and shoot a pinball-like bullet into the asteroid to blow up material from beneath the surface. If all goes successfully, the craft will then collect samples that would eventually be sent back to Earth. Friday’s attempt is the first of three such touchdowns planned.

The brief landing will be challenging, because of the uneven and boulder-covered surface. Hayabusa2 is aiming for a 6-meter- (20-foot-) diameter circle to avoid obstacles. Space agency controllers will direct its approach until it is 500 metres (1,600 feet) above the asteroid’s surface, after which it will be on its own because it takes 20 minutes for commands from Earth to reach the craft.

JAXA, as the Japanese space agency is known, has compared landing in the circle to landing on a baseball mound from its height of 20 kilometres (6 miles) above the asteroid.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 metres (3,000 feet) in diameter and 280 million kilometres (170 million miles) from Earth.

By The Associated Press

Just Posted

Rachel Notley is coming to Red Deer

Speaking at campaign office

UPDATED: Economy and health care expected to be hot election topics

Premier Rachel Notley makes announcement on Tuesday morning

Calgary woman convicted in son’s strep death seeking full parole

CALGARY — A woman convicted in her son’s death after she failed… Continue reading

Canadian women earn significantly less in pay, bonuses and profit sharing: study

TORONTO — Canadian women are paid 25 per cent less than men… Continue reading

UK’s May asks EU to delay Brexit until June 30

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May formally asked the European Union on… Continue reading

Canadian pair fifth after short program at figure skating worlds

SAITAMA, Japan — Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro are fifth after… Continue reading

Director Kim Nguyen tackles financial ‘madness’ in ‘The Hummingbird Project’

TORONTO — As Quebec filmmaker Kim Nguyen tells it, “The Hummingbird Project”… Continue reading

What Disney gets as its $71.3B buy of Fox assets closes

It’s finally complete. Disney closed its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment… Continue reading

Opinion: Let’s be heard ‘loud and clear’ during provincial election campaign

By David Marsden During the banquet for Sunday’s Boston Bruins alumni game,… Continue reading

Documentary on Colten Boushie case to open Toronto’s Hot Docs festival

TORONTO — A film examining the case of a young Indigenous man… Continue reading

Want to help bees? Plant flowering herbs

Herbs are among the most useful plants in nature. They can tantalize… Continue reading

UN: Gene editing for human reproduction is ‘irresponsible’

GENEVA — A panel convened by the World Health Organization said it… Continue reading

Photos: Three moose spotted in Red Deer Tuesday

Three moose were spotted in Red Deer Tuesday morning. Red Deer resident… Continue reading

Most Read