Japanese spacecraft readying to sample ancient asteroid


A Japanese asteroid probe will snag samples of its target space rock later this month, if all goes according to plan.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which has been studying the 3,000-foot-wide (900 meters) near-Earth asteroid Ryugu up close since last June, will make its first sample-grabbing dive just two weeks from now.

“The touchdown operation to collect a sample from Ryugu will be between February 20th-22nd. Hayabusa2 is scheduled to begin the descent from February 21 and touch down on the surface of Ryugu around 8 a.m. on February 22 (JST). It is the pinnacle of the mission!” Hayabusa2 team members said via Twitter Wednesday (Feb. 6).