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Japan's spacecraft returns to Earth with a real piece of asteroid



Japan's Hayabusa 2 probe will leave its orbit around a distant asteroid on Wednesday after an unprecedented mission, heading for Earth. It will contain samples that could shed light on the origins of the solar system.

The long journey home would begin at 10:05 am (0105 GMT), with the probe expected to deliver its precious samples by the end of 2020, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.

"We expect" Hayabusa-2 will provide us with new scientific insight, "Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda told reporters.

The probe will return" carbon and organic matter "to Earth, which will provide data about it," like the Matter scattered around the sunlight is "a system of why it exists on the asteroid and how it relates to the earth," Tsuda added.

The mission took about 300 hours to millions of kilometers from the Earth removed he explored the asteroid Ryugu, whose name means in Japanese "Dragon Palace" – a reference to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an old fable.

In April, Hayabusa -2 fired an "impactor" into the asteroid to stir up materials that had previously not been exposed to the atmosphere.

Then it made a "perfect" landing on the surface of the asteroid to collect the samples that scientists hope will provide clues as to how the solar system was born about 4.6 billion years ago looked.

"That's me. I feel half sad, half determined to do our best to bring the probe home," Tsuda said.

"Ryugu has been the heart of our everyday life for a year and a half," he added.

] "New Destination"

Hayabusa-2 will be ordered Wednesday to drive home, free himself from the gravity of the asteroid on November 18, and fire his main engines on the way to Earth early next month said JAXA.

Tsuda said the six-year mission, which cost around $ 30 billion ($ 278 million), surpassed expectations, but admitted that his team had a host of technical issues to deal with.

It took the probe three and a half years to get to the asteroid, but the return trip should be much shorter as Earth and Ryugu move closer together due to their current position.

Hayabusa-2 is expected to deliver the samples in the South Australian Desert, but JAXA is negotiating with the Australian Government about how this should be regulated, Tsuda said.

The probe is the successor of JAXA's first asteroid researcher "Hayabusa", which means "hawk" in Japanese.

The earlier probe returned in 2010 with dust samples from a smaller, potato-shaped asteroid, though it had suffered various setbacks in its seventh epic-year odyssey and was hailed as a scientific triumph.

The first generation probe reentered the Earth's atmosphere and burned out.

According to the current plan, Hayabusa-2 will boldly continue its journey in space after dropping the probe. "The team has just begun investigating what can be done (after discarding the capsule) and could do another asteroid exploration "said JAXA spokesman Keiichi Murakami previously told AFP Concrete plans for a new destination, Tsuda said.

© Agence France-Presse


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