Japan’s asteroid sample-return spacecraft Hayabusa2 gets extended mission

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 is currently making its round-trip return from an asteroid, bringing pieces of the space rock back to Earth. But instead of ending its run with that cosmic delivery, after dropping off its precious parcel, the spacecraft will swing back out into space to visit another rocky destination.

After Hayabusa2 delivers its samples of asteroid Ryugu to Earth in December, the craft will head off toward a new asteroid target: 1998 KY26, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a statement. The spacecraft should reach the new asteroid in 2031.

Hayabusa2 reached asteroid Ryugu in June 2018 and spent over a year studying the space rock. The spacecraft left Ryugu in November 2019 and its sample-return capsule will return pieces of the asteroid to Earth with a Dec. 6 landing in the Australian Outback. 

Hayabusa2’s first mission aimed to help scientists learn about the composition of

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