HOUSTON—The Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return mission spacecraft entered the full-scale ion propulsion cruise phase of its return to Earth from Ryugu as planned late Dec. 2 U.S. time, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said. The milestone, at 9:42 p.m. EST, or Dec. 3 at 11:42 a.m. Japan Standard Time, fell on the fifth anniversary of the mission’s launch to the carbon-rich, diamond-shaped kilometer-wide asteroid. A late 2020 return is anticipated, with the spacecraft ...


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