Hayabusa2 to attempt second landing on asteroid

Japan's space agency says it will try to have the Hayabusa2 space probe make a second landing on the asteroid Ryugu next month.

Engineers at the Japan Space Exploration Agency, or JAXA, first landed Hayabusa2 on the asteroid in February.

In April, the probe fired a metal object into Ryugu's surface and created a 10-meter-wide crater.

JAXA has been considering whether the probe can land in or near the crater to collect underground rock samples exposed by the impact.

Last month, the probe dropped a target marker near the crater and captured images of the asteroid's terrain for a topographical analysis of the possible landing site.

JAXA engineers confirmed that the probe's camera and other equipment that were slightly damaged by the first landing are usable, and that there are no big rocks at the candidate site. They gave the go-ahead for a landing on July 11.

Hayabusa2 is scheduled to begin its descent from an altitude of 20,000 meters at around 10 a.m. on July 10 Japan time, and touch down on the asteroid's surface about 25 hours later.

JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda says they cannot afford to take risks because the probe is believe to be carrying samples collected after its first landing. But he added that its collecting underground rock samples would be the first ever and is worth a try.