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Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 begins approach to distant asteroid

A Japanese spacecraft began its approach on Thursday toward a distant asteroid, on a mission to collect material that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth, AP reports. Hayabusa2’s descent was delayed for about five hours for a safety check. The unmanned craft is still due to touch down as scheduled on Friday morning, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. During the touchdown, which will last just seconds, Hayabusa2 will extend a pipe and shoot a pinball-like bullet into the asteroid to blow up material from beneath the surface. The craft will then try to collect samples that will eventually be sent back to Earth. Friday’s attempt is the first of three such touchdowns planned.