Hayabusa2 Leaves Asteroid For Earth

Hayabusa2 leaves asteroid for Earth

Japan's space agency says its probe is on its way back to Earth after leaving the asteroid, Ryugu.

Hayabusa2 was launched in 2014 and reached the asteroid about 300 million kilometers from Earth in June last year. It succeeded in an unprecedented mission of touching down twice and collecting rock samples from beneath the surface.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, said it confirmed the probe's departure, following the firing of engines at 10:05 a.m., Japan time, on Wednesday.

JAXA also released an image of the asteroid taken by the probe 20 kilometers above the surface.

Hayabusa2 will spend about two weeks from November 20 in test operations of its ion engines to bring it back to Earth.

JAXA says it plans to let the probe detach a re-entry capsule expected to contain the rock samples in November or December next year, which will then be recovered in the state of South Australia.