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Kaguya, Japan’s first lunar probe satellite, dropped to the moon’s surface in the early hours of Thursday morning Japan time after completing its 17-month-long mission to shed light on its origin and evolution, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Thursday.

JAXA said the satellite, which is known as SELENE, or the Selenological and Engineering Explorer, hit the lunar surface at around 80.4 degrees east longitude and 65.5 degrees south latitude at 3:25 a.m. Thursday.

Since its launch in September 2007, the satellite, nicknamed Kaguya after a lunar princess in an ancient Japanese folktale, has been orbiting the moon at an altitude of about 100 km to research its geography, elements, mineral distribution and gravity levels.

The orbiter consisted of a 3-ton main orbiter and two 50-kg subsatellites and carried 14 instruments for the probe. One of the subsatellites will continue to orbit the moon, but will no longer carry out scientific investigations, JAXA said.

Images taken by the explorer showed that a crater on the south pole of the moon may not contain any exposed ice and that there is no place on the Moon that is always in the sun.

Kaguya’s high-definition television camera also captured images of the Earth rising above the horizon.

JAXA said the explorer’s observation data will be unveiled on the Internet on Nov. 1.

The satellite was carried by an H-IIA rocket that lifted off from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Sept. 14, 2007.

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