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A Japanese space probe has successfully taken samples from an asteroid for the first time ever.

The Hayabusa probe started its one kilometre descent at 10.00pm (JST) November 25. It touched down on the surface of the Itokawa asteroid early on Saturday morning and successfully took rock samples.

With the samples on board it reascended to several kilometres above Itokawa.

Or at least that's what Japanese scientists think has happened - they're still waiting for more information from the probe and won't know exactly what it has picked up until it returns to earth in 2007.

The probe landed on the asteroid for the first time, after a couple of bounces, in the morning of 20th November. But problems with sensors meant the "projector" was not fired. Hayabusa collects rock and dust by firing a piece of metal into the asteroid surface and collecting the resulting debris.

More details from Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science here and here.®

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