Japan delays landing of spacecraft on rocky asteroid
TOKYO — Japan’s space agency is delaying a spacecraft touchdown on an asteroid because scientists need more time to find a safe landing site on the extremely rocky surface.
The spacecraft Hayabusa2 left Earth in 2014 and traveled 170 million miles to the area of asteroid Ryugu, which it reached in June.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to attempt three brief touchand-go landings on Ryugu to collect samples in hopes of gaining clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.
JAXA Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda said Friday that the rockier-than-expected asteroid hardly has any flat spaces for landing.
“Those rocks are our biggest headache,” Tsuda said. “Ryugu is extremely rocky and it’s almost cruel.”
He said his team needs at least a month to revise the landing plan, and is still hopeful.
“We will not let Hayabusa2 come back empty-handed,” Tsuda said earlier.