Japanese spacecraft touches down on asteroid to get samples

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Staff of the Hayabusa2 Project watch monitors for a safety check at the control room of the JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, on Feb. 21, 2019. (ISAS/JAXA via AP)
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This Oct. 25, 2018, image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows asteroid Ryugu. (JAXA via AP)
Updated 22 February 2019
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Japanese spacecraft touches down on asteroid to get samples

  • Probe to fire a “bullet” into the asteroid’s surface to stir up surface matter, which the probe will then collect for analysis back on Earth
  • Scientists hope the samples may provide answers to some fundamental questions about life and the universe

TOKYO: A Japanese spacecraft touched down on a distant asteroid Friday on a mission to collect material that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.
Workers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) control center applauded Friday as a signal sent from space indicated the Hayabusa2 spacecraft had touched down.
During the touchdown, Hayabusa2 is programmed to extend a pipe and shoot a pinball-like object into the asteroid to blow up material from beneath the surface. If that succeeds, the craft would then collect samples to eventually be sent back to Earth. Three such touchdowns are planned.
Japanese Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama said the space agency had concluded from its data after the first touchdown that the steps to collect samples were performed successfully.
JAXA, as the Japanese space agency is known, has likened the touchdown attempts to trying to land on a baseball mound from the spacecraft’s operating location of 20 kilometers (12 miles) above the asteroid.

Scientists hope the samples may provide answers to some fundamental questions about life and the universe, including whether elements from space helped give rise to life on Earth.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter and 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth. It is thought to contain relatively large amounts of organic matter and water from some 4.6 billion years ago when the solar system was born.

 

 


Mike Pompeo urges Russia to cease ‘unconstructive behavior’ in Venezuela

Updated 9 min 19 sec ago
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Mike Pompeo urges Russia to cease ‘unconstructive behavior’ in Venezuela

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Russia on Monday the US will not "stand idly by" as Moscow inserts military personnel into Venezuela to support the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.
In a phone call with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Pompeo denounced the growing Russian military reinforcements as prolonging the political crisis in the South American country.
Pompeo told Lavrov that "the United States and regional countries will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela," the State Department said in a statement.
"The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaido," he said.
Guaido is supported by the United States and most Latin American and European nations but he retains the support of Russia and China, US rivals who have offered political and economic support to him.
Pompeo urged Russia to "cease its unconstructive behavior" and support Guaido.