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Japan and Germany team up for a two day asteroid ride

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The Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be making another trip to an asteroid with the help of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and its MASCOT lander. The mission follows up Japan's first attempt at studying asteroids with the original Hayabusa probe which, according to New Scientist, was unfortunately hit with a number of technical issues during its travels. When it launches in 2014, the Hayabusa-2 mission will be tasked with the same goal — collecting samples and acquiring measurements from the asteroid's surface — but will do so using the German-built Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout.

To maneuver around the rocky terrain, the 22-pound, beer case-sized MASCOT has been equipped with a mechanism that allows it to physically hop between study sites instead of rolling. The Hayabusa-2 spacecraft will also acquire samples while remaining above the surface by shooting impactor missles at the asteroid and collecting the kicked up particles by way of a suction nozzle. After a 100 yard free-fall from the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, MASCOT will spend two asteroid days (16 hours) on the surface when it lands in 2018.