Japanese spacecraft to attempt landing on distant asteroid

February 21, 2019 - 1:30 am

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese spacecraft is approaching the surface of an asteroid about 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Thursday that Hayabusa2 began its approach at 1:15 p.m.

The start was delayed for about five hours for a safety check, but the unmanned craft is still is due to touch down as scheduled on Friday morning.

It will attempt to collect material from the asteroid that could provide clues about the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.

The landing will require precision. Hayabusa2 is aiming for a 6-meter- (20-foot-) wide strip to avoid obstacles on the asteroid's surface.

The asteroid is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter. It is named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale.

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