posted at 01:50
Author Name: Miwa Suzuki
Japan successfully launches asteroid probe
The probe will use the Earth's gravity as a slingshot to propel it towards its target. The 31-billion-yen project will send the explorer towards the 1999JU3 asteroid in deep space. If all goes well, asteroid samples will be returned to Earth in late 2020. The carbonaceous asteroid is believed to contain organic matter and water, the stuff of life. JAXA aims to bring 100 milligrams of samples to Earth after a round trip of more than five billion kilometres. The probe is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa - the Japanese term for falcon - which returned to Earth in 2010 with dust samples after a trouble-plagued seven-year mission. The spherical 1999JU3 asteroid, which is around a kilometre across, is believed to contain significantly more organic matter and water than the potato-shaped rock studied by the original Hayabusa. Despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey, including intermittent loss of communication and damage to its motors, the first Hayabusa was hailed as a scientific triumph when it returned to Earth.

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