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Japan's Hayabusa2 Asteroid Ryugu Sample-Return Mission in Pictures

JAXA Minerva-II1B View of Asteroid Ryugu

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The MINERVA-II1B rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu on Sept. 21, 2018 shortly after separating from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The asteroid appears at lower right.

MINERVA-II1 Rover View of Asteroid Ryugu

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Minerva-II1 rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu (bottom) and the Hayabusa2 spacecraft (at top right) just after the rover separated from the spacecraft on Sept. 21, 2018.

Hayabusa2 MINERVA-II1 Rovers

JAXA

A close look at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's MINERVA-II1 rovers delivered to asteroid Ryugu by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft in September 2018. Rover-1A is on the left, with Rover-1B on the right. In back is the cover in which they were stored.

Looking at Ryugu

JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST

The region of the Hayabusa2 highest-resolution image (outlined in yellow), seen from afar. Left: A global image of Ryugu. Right: A photo taken on Sept. 21, 2018, from a height of 230 feet (70 meters).

Hayabusa2 shadow

JAXA

The Japanese probe Hayabusa2 cast its shadow on asteroid Ryugu in new images from the spacecraft released in September 2018.

Hayabusa Shadow (Unannotated)

JAXA

An unannotated view of Hayabusa2 as it cast its shadow on asteroid Ryugu in new images from the spacecraft released in September 2018.

Ryugu: A Laser View

National Astronomical Observatory, JAXA, Chiba Institute of Technology, Aizu Univ., Nippon Univ., Osaka Univ.

A view of the asteroid Ryugu taken by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft's laser altimeter after a month of measurement.

Behold: Ryugu

JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST

This image of asteroid Ryugu was taken June 26, 2018, by the Hayabusa2 probe's optical navigation camera, just a day before the probe's rendezvous with the space rock. The image was taken at about 14 miles (22 km) away from the asteroid.

Rocks on Ryugu

Kinki University, JAXA, etc.

The distribution of rocks on the surface of asteroid Ryugu — green marks indicate a rock that seems to be more than 25 feet (8 meters) across.

Ryugu Heat

JAXA, Ashikaga University etc.

The view of asteroid Ryugu from the probe Hayabusa2's infrared camera, seen revolving once every 8 minutes. Each pixel covers about 66 feet (20 meters) of the asteroid.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.