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ExoLance
Japanese asteroid probe returning to Earth
Posted: Tue, Jun 8, 2010, 6:01 AM ET (1001 GMT)
Hayabusa spacecraft illus. (JAXA) A Japanese spacecraft that overcame numerous technical problems to study an asteroid is on final approach to return to Earth this weekend. Hayabusa adjusted its trajectory slightly earlier this month, putting the spacecraft on course for a reentry over Australia on June 13. The spacecraft carries a sample return capsule designed to land at the Woomera range in Australia. Scientists hope that capsule carries samples from the asteroid Itokawa, which the spacecraft visited in 2005. However, the spacecraft sample collection mechanism didn't work as planned, although scientists hope it was able to collect some dust or larger pieces of the asteroid. That problem was one of many that Hayabusa suffered during its mission, including thruster problems and communications outages. If successful, though, Hayabusa would be the first mission to return a sample from an asteroid.
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