Japanese probe to try landing on asteroid again

A Japanese space probe is heading back toward an asteroid for a second landing attempt after failing to touch down over the weekend, space agency officials confirm.

Communications between the Hayabusa probe and Japan's space agency, JAXA, have returned to normal after the vessel inexplicably stopped just meters from the asteroid Itokawa on Sunday.

The probe, which also botched a rehearsal earlier this month, is on a mission to briefly land on the asteroid, collect material, then bring it back to Earth.

Officials will analyze data from the probe Tuesday to find out what went wrong in Sunday's attempt. A second landing attempt is planned for as early as Friday, according to JAXA spokesman Toshihisa Horiguchi.

On Sunday, Hayabusa dropped a small object as a touchdown target from 40 meters above the asteroid and then descended to 17 meters, according to JAXA.

At that point, ground control lost contact with the probe for about three hours, JAXA officials said.

The probe switched to auto-control, storing data about itself and later transmitting it to ground control to be analyzed.

The probe's current distance from the asteroid was not immediately known, Horiguchi said.

The mission has been troubled by a series of glitches, the AP reports.


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