Japanese Asteroid Probe Making Final Approach


Japanese asteroid probe making final approach

Japan's national space agency says its probe, "Hayabusa2," will reach the orbit of the asteroid Ryugu in just a few days.

On Saturday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, invited journalists to see how its scientists determine the exact location of the probe.

Scientists at a research center near Tokyo are using antennas in Japan, the United States, and Australia to receive signals from the probe, which is about 300 million kilometers from Earth.

They say Hayabusa2 is about 30 kilometers away from the asteroid. They are trying to get the probe 10 kilometers closer, so they can put it into the asteroid's orbit.

Images taken by the probe show that the asteroid, which is 900 meters in diameter, is pointed at its poles and has what looks like a mountain range near its equator.

They also show a dent that looks like a crater and what appears to be a huge rock. The dent is about 200 meters in diameter. JAXA researchers say the crater near the equator may be a good landing point for the probe.

The probe was launched in late 2014 to travel to the asteroid and shed light on the origin and evolution of the solar system, as well as of life.