FILE - A computer-rendered image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Hayabusa2 spacecraft above the asteroid Ryugu.
FILE - A computer-rendered image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Hayabusa2 spacecraft above the asteroid Ryugu.

Japan says its deep space probe has successfully landed on a distant asteroid and collected samples that scientists hope will unveil the clues about the origin of the solar system.

Officials with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency jubilantly announced Thursday that data from its Hayabusa2 spacecraft confirmed the probe had resumed hovering over the Ryugu asteroid after briefly landing inside a crater and collecting underground material.  The crater was formed back in April after the Hayabusa2 fired a 2-kilogram copper projectile into the surface.

The probe arrived at Ryugu just over a year ago after a three-and-a-half year journey that covered about 300 million kilometers.  It has spent the past year taking photographic images of the asteroid, named after an undersea palace in ancient Japanese folklore.

Hayabusa2 is due to return to Earth in late 2020.  

Japan's first Hayabusa asteroid mission, which took place from 2003 to 2010, made history by becoming the first probe to bring back samples from an asteroid, overcoming a series of technical glitches along the way.