Japanese spacecraft touches down on distant asteroid

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.

Scientists hope it will help shed light on the origins of the solar system

Staff react as they confirm Hayabusa2 touched down on a distant asteroid on a mission to collect material that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth. (ISAS/JAXA/Associated Press)

A Japanese spacecraft named after a falcon 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 (JAXA) control centre applauded Friday as a signal sent from space indicated the Hayabusa2 spacecraft had touched down. The successful landing came after an initial attempt in October was delayed because it was difficult to pick a landing spot on the asteroid's rocky surface

JAXA said Hayabusa 2 fired a small projectile into the surface of Ryugu to collect particles scientists hope the spacecraft will bring back to Earth for analysis.

"We may have caused some worry due to the delay but we carried out our plan flawlessly over the past four months to bring it to a successful landing," project manager Yuichi Tsuda told a news conference.

"It landed in the best circumstances among the scenarios we envisioned," he said.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 metres in diameter and 280 million kilometres from Earth.

A computer graphic image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shows the Japanese unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 approaching the asteroid Ryugu. (JAXA via Associated Press)

Asteroids are believed to have formed at the dawn of the solar system and scientists say Ryugu could contain organic matter that may have contributed to life on Earth.

With files from Reuters