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 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) to the area of asteroid Ryugu, which it reached in June.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to attempt three brief touch-and-go landings on Ryugu to collect samples in hopes of gaining clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth. JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda said Friday that the rockier-than-expected asteroid hardly has any flat spaces for landing.
Hayabusa2 will rehearse near-touchdown approaches to the asteroid later this month and analyze its surface details. A first landing is expected in late January or later.