Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), launches the unmanned Hayabusa space probe on a mission to gather material from asteroid 25143 Itokawa. Intended to reach Itokawa in two years, and then return the asteroid samples to Earth in 2010, Hayabusa will also attempt to drop a small rover on Itokawa’s surface and will test an ion engine propulsion system. The name “Hayabusa” – translating to “peregrine falcon” – is only bestowed upon the spacecraft once it reaches space; prior to that, Hayabusa is known by its engineering designation, MUSES-C. A few months after Hayabusa’s launch, ISAS itself is renamed JAXA (the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency).
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