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Hayabusa return delayed
Posted: Wed, Dec 14, 2005, 8:23 AM ET (1323 GMT)
Hayabusa spacecraft illus. (JAXA) Japan's Hayabusa space probe will delay its return to Earth by three years because of ongoing thruster problems with the spacecraft. Hayabusa, still in the vicinity of the asteroid Itokawa, needs to fire its main engine by mid-December in order to enter a trajectory that will bring the spacecraft back to Earth in mid-2007. However, continued thruster problems have hampered normal operations, and JAXA officials said Wednesday that they are rescheduling the spacecraft's return. That change will keep the spacecraft from returning to Earth until mid-2010, assuming that spacecraft operations return to normal. Hayabusa is designed to return to Earth carrying samples of the asteroid's surface, but project officials said last week there is no guarantee the spacecraft collected any, because a pellet used to kick up samples from the surface apparently did not fire.
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