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Probe That Landed On Asteroid Returns To Earth


A Japanese space capsule believed to contain the first asteroid samples ever brought to Earth is waiting to be picked up in the Australian Outback.

The pod fell to Earth overnight after it was ejected from a Japanese space vehicle at the conclusion of a seven-year, 6 billion-kilometer journey.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the spacecraft in 2003 toward an asteroid called Itokawa. After taking photo images of the 500-meter-long asteroid, the "Hayabusa" spacecraft landed on it twice in late 2005 -- marking the first time a manmade spacecraft landed on an asteroid.

Scientists say they are hopeful the spacecraft succeeded in collecting material from the surface of the asteroid and returned it safely to Earth.

Scientists say any asteroid material collected by the spacecraft could provide valuable information about the history of the solar system, the formation of planets, and the physical properties of asteroids.

compiled from agency reports
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