(Sputnik)— Japan’s Hayabusa2 space probe has approached the asteroid Ryugu for a sample return mission after flying two billion miles over more than a 3.5-year period, Japanese space agency JAXA has reported.
The space probe was launched in early December 2014. It has now approached Ryugu at a 12-mile distance and will remain near the asteroid for a year and a half, studying it and attempting to take samples that will be taken to Earth.
Hayabusa2 will make its first attempt at getting a sample this fall.
Ryugu, approximately 1-kilometer (0.6-miles) in diameter, is a potentially dangerous near-Earth object. It orbits the Sun at 0.96–1.41 astronomical units every 474 days.