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Japanese spacecraft drops robot onto asteroid to hunt for the origin of the solar system

• https://www.independent.co.uk, Andrew Griffin

A robot has been successfully dropped onto an asteroid millions of miles from Earth – and will now hunt for the origin of the solar system.

The German-French device known as MASCOT landed on an asteroid called Ryugu when it was dropped by a Japanese spacecraft. The spacecraft has been floating around the asteroid in recent days, and already dropped two devices to explore its surfacewhich sent back stunning photo and videos of the world.

The robot had live tweeted its own descent to the asteroid. "I'm doing it! I'm descending to Ryugu! Can't stop me now!" its engineers posted on an account devoted to MASCOT.

It then posted to say it had landed successfully. "And then I found myself in a place like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery and danger! I landed on asteroid Ryugu!"

It will now spend its time measuring and taking pictures of the surface. It has already successfully collected some 20 images, which are stored on the mothership known as Hayabusa2 ready to be looked at scientists.

The spacecraft went as close as about 50 meters to the asteroid's surface to release the box-shaped lander.

Hayabusa2 has been stationed near the asteroid since June after travelling 170 million miles from Earth. After its mission is finished, it will fly all that way back again.

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