Visions of Ryugu: The Funny (and Scary) Asteroid Predictions by Japan's Hayabusa2 Team

Multi-Material Rock

Stefania Soldini/JAXA

Stefania Soldini, responsible for orbit design, had a Ryugu design inspired by Christmas "candy coal." The asteroid is porus with several fractures, sandy "beaches," craters and rocks — as well as a surprising flat, smooth region to puzzle scientists. "Surely, Ryugu's sample will not taste like sugar candy, but delightful discoveries are going to be revealed by Hayabusa2 mission!" Soldini wrote.

Dark and Brooding

Masahiko Hayakawa/JAXA

"This picture is a C-type asteroid I imagined about 30 years ago," wrote Masahiko Hayakawa, a mission scientist.

Treasure Trove

Shogo Tachibana

"I'm hoping for lots of life-related organic matter. (Later on, I ate this and it was delicious)", wrote Shogo Tachibana, responsible for sample analysis.

Asteroid Ryugu - tricky

Seiji Sugita/JAXA

"It would be tricky to land here, but there does seem to be lots of water," wrote Seiji Sugita, responsible for the Optical Navigation Camera. "There is also a crater, and boulders are spread about."


Tanabe, Takagi, Sugimoto and Tatsumi/Seiji Sugita/JAXA

Postdocs and students in Seiji Sugita's lab produced this model, which looks like a slightly flattened sphere. "Rocks from a few meters to a few 10s meters are widely scattered and shallow, relaxed craters can be seen in a number of places," the team wrote. "There also seems to be different surface environments, such as linear features and relatively smooth places with few rocks. At mid-latitudes, there are places with fewer rocks that seem easy to land, but it also seems interesting to land in a crater."

Watch Out Cupid

Takato Morishita/JAXA

"A heart-type is quite good but I do not want to destroy the heart with the impactor!" wrote Takato Morishita, responsible for Supervisor Support.

Space Disco

Fuyuto Terui/JAXA

Fuyuto Terui, responsible for the ACOS, provided this challenging version of Ryugu. "I cannot distinguish the target marker in this case... this is a new type of un-landable object!" the blog post's writer added, from the perspective of Hayabusa2. "I'll have to close my eyes and land!"

Colorful Geology

Yasuhiro Yokota/JAXA

Yasuhiro Yokota, in charge of Hayabusa2's website, hoped for a large flat spot (like the "r"-shaped patch here) and many different geological features when observing at different wavelengths of light, represented by the different colors on the map.

Hoping for Familiarity

Noriko Tanaka/JAXA

"As the appearance finally becomes clear, I think this will be the shape of Ryugu," wrote Noriko Tanaka, a project assistant. "I hope it will look kind of familiar. I am praying it will be easy for Hayabusa2!"

Coral-like Structure

Makoto Yoshikawa/JAXA

"The places where we can land may be limited as Ryugu is also probably covered in boulders" like the asteroid 25145 Itokawa, wrote mission manager Makoto Hoshikawa. He also imagined if Ryugu was like Saturn's moon Hyperion (right). "Another celestial body where it is impossible to land. So many holes!" Hoshikawa wrote. "We will have trouble if Ryugu is a similar celestial body."

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Sarah Lewin
Associate Editor

Sarah Lewin started writing for in June of 2015 as a Staff Writer and became Associate Editor in 2019 . Her work has been featured by Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Quanta Magazine, Wired, The Scientist, Science Friday and WGBH's Inside NOVA. Sarah has an MA from NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and an AB in mathematics from Brown University. When not writing, reading or thinking about space, Sarah enjoys musical theatre and mathematical papercraft. She is currently Assistant News Editor at Scientific American. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahExplains.