Spacecraft with precious asteroid cargo is almost home after 3 billion-mile trek

In the dusty desert town of Woomera, in the South Australian desert, scientists are getting ready. On Dec. 6, 2020, after six years in space, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft will finally return to Earth.

It carries with it a cargo unbelievably rare, precious, and hard-won – at least 100 milligrams of material collected from the surface of asteroid Ryugu. It will drop the capsule containing the sample to Earth, the spacecraft itself continuing on to visit more asteroid targets.

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