When the Hayabusa2 probe took to the skies in December 2014, it was the start of a mission that would ultimately make history. Set on a path towards an asteroid circling the Sun, the craft finally approached the minor planet – given the name of Ryugu – in summer 2018. And, incredibly, after Hayabusa2 encountered Ryugu, it eventually got close enough to transmit some truly stunning images – including the first ever to have been taken from the exterior of an asteroid.
Eight years before Hayabusa2 snapped that pioneering photo, though, its mission was given the green light by the Japanese government. And as the craft’s name suggests, it was a successor to the original Hayabusa probe, which had embarked on a similar – if somewhat problem-strewn – journey back in 2003.