Japan Launches Hayabusa2 Asteroid Sample Return Mission

Japan Launches Hayabusa2 Asteroid Sample Return Mission

Japan launched its second asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa2, at 11:22 pm EST tonight (December 2), which was 1:22 pm December 3 local time in Japan.  The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket lifted off on time under cloudy skies after two weather-related delays.

Spacecraft separation is expected in about an hour and a half.  The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will provide live coverage beginning at 12:55 am EST (2:55 pm Japan Standard Time).

Once on its way, Hayabusa2 will spend 4 years enroute to its destination, asteroid 1999 JU3, and then spend 18 months orbiting the asteroid before sending a sample back to Earth at the end of 2020.

This is Japan’s second asteroid sample return mission.   Its first mission, Hayabusa, brought back grains of asteroid Itokawa in 2010.

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