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After spending two weeks testing its main ion engines just beyond the gravitational sphere of influence of the asteroid Ryugu, Japanese engineers today initiated full engine operation, beginning the spacecraft’s journey back to Earth.
Hayabusa-2 is expected to return to Earth space in December 2020, where it will release a small capsule containing the two samples it obtained of Ryugu will be released to land on Earth and be recovered. At that point, if Hayabusa-2 is still in good condition it will be available to send to other locations in the solar system.