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October 9 2012

Japan asteroid trip will star upgraded bouncing robot


Hayabusa 2, Japan's second mission to collect samples from an asteroid, is getting a MASCOT.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne and the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tokyo announced this week that they have formalised a deal to send the German-built Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, on the mission, set to launch in 2014.

JAXA's original Hayabusa probe was a success but only just. Technical challenges ranging from failed engines to lost communications meant that the spacecraft returned home hobbled and late, bearing just a few precious pieces of the stony asteroid Itokawa.

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