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ESA will provide tracking support to Japan’s ‘touch-and-go’ Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, now en route to a little-known asteroid, helping to boost the scientific return from this audacious mission.
A flawless launch in December 2014 marked the start of a six-year round-trip for the asteroid-chaser, which is on course to arrive at the carbon-rich asteroid Ryugu in June 2018.
Once there, it will study the surface in detail in preparation for dispatching three diminutive landing drones. It will also deliver the Mascot lander, developed by the DLR German Aerospace Center in cooperation with France’s CNES space agency and equipped with a ‘hopper’ mechanism to enable it to explore the tiny world from multiple locations.