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Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 set to return to Earth from asteroid Ryugu

A model of the Hayabusa2 space probe is seen at the Hoshinobunkakan astronomical observatory in the city of Yame, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Oct. 6, 2019. (Mainichi/Masayoshi Esashi)

TOKYO -- The Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 will depart from the asteroid Ryugu on Nov. 13 to return to Earth, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda revealed at a press conference after a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 12.

Hayabusa2 has orbited the asteroid for about one year and five months. It touched down on Ryugu twice and is believed to have successfully collected material samples from the asteroid. If there are no complications, the spacecraft is expected to arrive back on Earth at the end of 2020.

Hayabusa2 will use its chemical engine to move away from the asteroid on Nov. 13. Subsequently, it will deploy its main ion engine to full-power mode to travel to Earth. Whether the ion engine will work properly is the key to the probe's return as it will be the first time for Hayabusa2 to fully operate the engine since arriving at Ryugu in June 2018.

The capsule containing the samples will land in a desert area in southern Australia just like its predecessor Hayabusa.

(Japanese original by Etsuko Nagayama, Opinion Group)

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