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Japan's space probe on its way back after asteroid missions

TOKYO – A Japanese spacecraft is on its way home from an asteroid 250 million miles (15 million miles) from Earth after collecting subsamples that can help scientists search for the origin of life, Japan's space agency said on Monday. [19659002] Asteroids are believed to have formed during the dawn of the solar system and scientists say that the asteroid, called Ryugu, may contain organic matter that may have contributed to life on Earth.

If the return trip is successful, it will be the first time samples from an asteroid's surface have been brought back to earth, says a spokeswoman for the Japanese Aviation Industry Agency, or JAXA.

The unmanned Hayabusa 2, named after a falcon, began leaving Ryugu last week, but

These observations will be switched on Monday or Tuesday before its main engine is activated for the year-long flight, JAXA said.

"This is us saying goodbye to Ryugu," the spokeswoman said.

Hayabusa 2 is scheduled to return to Earth by the end of 2020. After dropping a capsule containing the samples, without landing, the probe itself will continue and fly in space, completing its six-year mission of 29 billion yen. ($ 1

= 109,1000 yen) (Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Alison Williams)

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