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Hayabusa 2 snaps the closest-ever shot of asteroid Ryugu's surface

This image shows the surface of Ryugu, photographed about 1 kilometer from the surface of the asteroid. (Photo courtesy of JAXA, the University of Tokyo and others)

TOKYO -- The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) released on Aug. 7 a new photo of the surface of the Ryugu asteroid taken from its probe Hayabusa 2 about 1 kilometer above the target.

The image showed many rocks several meters in diameter, suggesting the probe's planned landing could be rocky.

According to JAXA, Hayabusa 2 began its approach from an altitude of 20 kilometers above the surface of Ryugu on Aug. 6. It then went into free fall from an altitude of 6 kilometers to gauge Ryugu's gravity. The explorer probe then made the closest-ever approach, traveling as near as 851 meters from the surface of the asteroid, when it snapped the shot, before moving back to a higher altitude.

Mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa, an associate professor at JAXA, explained that the many rocks on the asteroid's surface imply that selecting a landing spot will be more difficult than originally thought. "We must find a place that will allow for a safe landing," he said.

(Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda, Science & Environment News Department)

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