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Hayabusa2 space probe successfully completes missions on asteroid Ryugu

This image shows the circling orbits of two "target markers" released from the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 toward the asteroid Ryugu. (Photo courtesy of JAXA, Chiba Institute of Technology and other groups)
A small robot is seen released from the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 toward the asteroid Ryugu in this composite photo. (Photo courtesy of JAXA, Tohoku University and other groups)

TOKYO -- The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on Oct. 28 that its unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 had completed its main missions after it earlier successfully landed a small robot on the asteroid Ryugu.

On Oct. 3, Hayabusa2 released the robot, which was jointly developed by five universities including Tohoku University, and it orbited around the asteroid.

Hayabusa2 also successfully conducted experiments on "target markers," objects the size of grapefruits that will guide the probe down for its asteroid landing. Two markers were released from Hayabusa2 on Sept. 17 and circled Ryugu about five times before landing on it.

Through these experiments, JAXA obtained data on the asteroid's gravity, which will offer clues on the density and inner structure of Ryugu. Hayabusa2 will depart from the asteroid in November or December and return to Earth.

(Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda, Science & Environment News Department)

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