Tokyo: A German-French observation device landed safely on an 800-metre-wide asteroid on Wednesday after a Japanese spacecraft released it as part of a research effort that could find clues about the origin of the solar system, Japanese space officials said.
The Japan Space Exploration Agency said the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, was released from the unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 and successfully landed on the asteroid Ryugu.
The spacecraft went as close as about 50 metres to the asteroid’s surface to release the box-shaped lander. Hayabusa2 has been stationed near the asteroid since June after travelling 280 million kilometres from Earth.
About an hour after the separation, the space agency, known as JAXA, said it had received signals from MASCOT, an indication of its safe landing.
JAXA’s Hayabusa project manager, Yuichi Tsuda, confirmed the landing at a news conference. JAXA collaborated with the German Aerospace Centre and France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales in the MASCOT project.