Japan's space agency, JAXA, says it has released a target marker onto the asteroid Ryugu to prepare for the planned landing of the Hayabusa2 probe there early next year.
Hayabusa2 arrived at a home position 20 kilometers from Ryugu in June. The asteroid is about 300 million kilometers from Earth.
JAXA said on Thursday that the probe landed a light-reflecting ball with a diameter of 10 centimeters on the asteroid from a height of 12 meters in late October.
The ball was to be a target for the landing. But agency officials said it ended up 5.4 meters outside a 10-meter-radius flat area chosen for the operation.
JAXA says it will work to figure out how to use the marker for a safe landing.
Mission Manager Makoto Yoshikawa said it's regrettable that the marker landed outside the zone, but that overall preparations are going well. He added that JAXA will stick to the current schedule.
The probe was to land in late October, but the plan was postponed to late January after Ryugu's surface was found to be rockier than expected.