KYODO NEWS - 1 hour ago - 16:56 | All, JapanJapan's space agency said Tuesday its Hayabusa2 probe is now homeward bound after activating its main engines following completion of its mission to collect samples from an asteroid.
Hayabusa2 left the asteroid on Nov. 13, five years after its launch, and tested its ion engines from Nov. 20 to Monday before beginning the return journey.
(Supplied computer graphic shows image of Hayabusa2 space probe and the Ryugu asteroid.)
Launched in December 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan, Hayabusa2 reached Ryugu in June last year.
The asteroid's subsurface rock, unaffected by solar flares, is believed to have retained the same state since the solar system was formed 4.6 billion years ago.