The touchdown is the last major part of Hayabusa2’s mission. It is due to return to Earth next year [ISAS/JAXA via AP Photo]

A Japanese spacecraft has landed on a distant asteroid and collected underground samples that scientists hope will provide clues to the origin of the solar system billions of years ago.

Japan’s space agency said on Thursday that the Hayabusa2 spacecraft landed inside a crater it had created on the Ryugu asteroid months earlier and collected samples that scientists believe contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.

Hayabusa2 is the first spacecraft to successfully collect underground samples from an asteroid. A similar mission is planned by NASA on another asteroid, Bennu. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA,

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