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Asteroid Sample Return Mission Nears Launch

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Japan nears launch of probe to retrieve asteroid samples

The Hayabusa 2 asteroid probe, on track for liftoff this winter, will be shipped to its island launch base at the end of September for final preparations to start the most audacious space exploration mission ever attempted by Japan.

The mission will take off on top of an H-2A launcher as soon as December, fly to an asteroid scientists believe is a relic from the genesis of the solar system, drop a European-built lander, and return to Earth in 2020 with extraterrestrial rock samples.

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