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Spunky Hayabusa Heads Home With Possible Payload

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Science  30 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5978, pp. 565
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5978.565

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Japan's Hayabusa asteroid mission, once thought lost, is coming home. Launched in 2003, the spacecraft has endured one mishap after another in the course of traveling more than 4 billion kilometers to retrieve samples from the asteroid Itokawa. If nothing else goes wrong, Hayabusa will be the first spacecraft to return to Earth after landing and lifting off a celestial body other than the moon. Last week in Tokyo, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced that Hayabusa's sample-return capsule, which may or may not hold material from the asteroid, is expected to land near Woomera, Australia, on 13 June. The craft itself will burn up in the atmosphere.