Hayabusa - 2 Most Likely To Land At Asteroid Equator

Hayabusa-2 most likely to land at asteroid equator

Japan's space agency has picked 3 locations on the Ryugu asteroid for its Hayabusa-2 probe to make its first landing. It sees the asteroid's equator as the most likely point.

Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, revealed the 3 candidate locations on Thursday.

This comes after Hayabusa-2 arrived near Ryugu in late June. It is about 300 million kilometers from Earth.

The probe is now some 20 kilometers from the asteroid.

The scientists say the probe may be able to land safely on a relatively flat area on top of a ridge at the equator, because there are fewer big rocks.

They add that the existence of seemingly unweathered rocks would provide the probe with a chance to collect organic-rich rock samples.

One of the 2 other candidate locations is near the equator, and the other about 150 meters away from the equator.

The scientists will make a final decision after studying more closely its surface next month, when the probe is scheduled to descend to a height of 20 to 30 meters above Ryugu.

They aim to have the probe make the first landing in late October.

JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda says he believes the area around the equator is suitable for the probe's first landing given its good conditions.

Hayabusa-2 is scheduled to land 3 times by spring next year. The probe is planning to collect underground rocks on the third landing.