Around 6 pm on Thursday night, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 touched down on Ryugu—a distant asteroid.
The craft wasn't there to make friends, something it promptly proved by firing a bullet into the asteroid. The goal, according to officials at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is for Hayabusa 2 to collect debris from the asteroid to bring back to Earth for testing.
It marks the completion of a long and arduous journey for Hayabusa 2. The craft was deployed in 2014, taking nearly four years to complete its 2 billion mile journey to Ryugu's orbit in June of 2018. After dropping rovers onto the asteroid's surface for months, Hayabusa 2 finally landed on the rock itself to fire the bullet and collect the subsequent debris.
The craft was reportedly successful in gathering the sample.
Japan's space agency is celebrating the Hayabusa2 probe's successful landing on the asteroid Ryugu. It's mission is… https://t.co/eCHW1NRQ7q— NHK WORLD News (@NHK WORLD News) 1550844972.0
Now, the craft will make the treacherous 3 billion mile journey back home, where it's expected to drop the sample at a location over Australia, but it won't reach Earth's atmosphere until at least 2020.
Judging by Twitter, it will be arriving to a warm reception.
#Humanity is awesome, #Space #Science edition: Japanese robot Hayabusa 2 flies to an asteroid, orbits it for a year… https://t.co/gOlOLXNlfL— Brian Olson (@Brian Olson) 1550851836.0
Whatever you’re doing in an hour, this incredible, brilliant nonsense will be happening in space https://t.co/Q0BbgHKMrN— Mat Larkin (@Mat Larkin) 1550786399.0
Truly exciting to hear what's happening 300mill. km away from earth. Safe travel home! https://t.co/T3ewZhkKUX— naoko tochibayashi (@naoko tochibayashi) 1550794735.0
Go Hayabusa-2! Grab some Ryugu to bring home. https://t.co/cRlOBvX92k— Henry Alwyn Wootten (@Henry Alwyn Wootten) 1550751648.0
Americans also had the most American response ever.
Infamous for the epidemic of gun violence plaguing the nation, Americans couldn't help but relate the bullet back to that.
@nytimes Thoughts and prayers to the asteroid and it’s family.— Lina Abz (@Lina Abz) 1550807742.0
@nytimes Japan shot up an asteroid before America got a chance to pull the trigger? Well color me suprised.— Beefsister 🆑 (@Beefsister 🆑) 1550807116.0
@nytimes Now we shooting in outer space too ?— puneeth kasigari (@puneeth kasigari) 1550813401.0
@nytimes That's the most American thing I....wait— Steve (@Steve) 1550848042.0
Unlike the crisis of gun violence, Japan's efforts represent the power of human innovation. NASA wished them luck as its own officials prepare for a similar mission.
Good luck to @JAXA_en and the Hayabusa2 team with the planned touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu. With both Hayabusa a… https://t.co/PvD0jaAwmt— NASA Solar System (@NASA Solar System) 1550764188.0
Save travels home, Hayabusa 2!