Hayabusa 2 is on its way!

Japan’s second sample return mission is on its way to an Apollo-class asteroid, an unnamed asteroid designated  (162173) 1999 JU3.  It uses ion thrusters for propulsion and carries four tiny landers equipped to scoop up samples for return to Earth, in addition to an impactor that is intended to excavate a deeper sampling location for the spacecraft.  Three of the four landers are Japanese, and the fourth is MASCOT, built by the same ESA team that built Philae, putting them in the lovely position of celebrating the landing of one space craft less than a month before celebrating the launch of another.

Enjoy the launch!  This is a H-2A rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and launched from Tanegashima Space Center.

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