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

Ready for Launch

JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

Engineers with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency work on Hayabusa2 as the asteroid probe is attached to its H-2A rocket ahead of a Dec. 3, 2014 (JST) launch target at the Tanegashima Space Center.

Germany's Mascot Lander for Hayabusa2

German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Integration of Germany’s Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) asteroid lander, being readied to fly on Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission. To land on the asteroid 1999 JU3 in 2018.

Probe Away!

JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

An artist's illustration of Hayabusa2 releasing a probe for a close-up study of the asteroid 1999 JU3.

Touchdown

JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft is designed to collect samples of asteroid 1999 JU3 after blasting an artificial crater into the space rock using an impactor.

Hayabusa2: Step by Step

JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

This series of images shows the different stages of Japan's Hayabusa2 mission during its 6-year flight.

MASCOT Lander

JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

This image shows Hayabusa2's MASCOT asteroid lander (lower right) built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and French space agency CNES to investigate 1999 JU3.

Impactor Away

JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

Hayabusa2 will release a probe to crash into asteroid 1999 JU3 with the goal of creating an artificial crater in the asteroid's surface.

Kapow!

JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

This artist's illustration depicts the moment of impact when the Hayabusa2 probe's impactor strikes asteroid 1999 JU3, a major milestone of the mission.

Japan's Hayabusa2 Spacecraft Revealed

JAXA

Japan unveils the Hayabusa2 asteroid probe on Dec. 26, 2012, during an event at JAXA's Sagamihara Campus. The spacecraft will launch in 2014 to collect samples of the asteroid 1999 JU3.

Homeward Bound

JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

Like its predecessor Hayabusa, the Hayabusa2 mission carries a sample-return capsule to return asteroid pieces to Earth. Here, the capsule is released for its homeward journey, something scientists will eagerly await in late 2020.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the 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 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. 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 Twitter.