Japan Space Probe

This Oct. 26, 2018, image captured by Rover-1A, and provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, shows the surface of asteroid Ryugu. Japan's space agency JAXA said Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, more than 200 photos taken by two small rovers on the asteroid show no signs of a smooth area for the planned touchdown of a spacecraft early next year. (JAXA via AP)

TOKYO (Meredith/AP) — A Japanese spacecraft has touched down on a distant asteroid on a mission to collect material that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system.

Workers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency 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.

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.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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