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On 2 December 2014, Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft departed Earth carrying MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout), a lander developed by the German space agency DLR in partnership with CNES. Its mission is to collect samples from 1999 JU3 (Ryugu), an Earth-crossing asteroid some 920 metres across. Hayabusa 2 will reach its destination in 2018, then in October 2018 it will release the MASCOT lander onto the asteroid’s surface. Using its four instruments, among them the MicrOmega infrared microscope developed by the IAS space astrophysics institute in Orsay with CNES oversight, MASCOT will analyse the asteroid’s soil at two different sites. Hayabusa 2 will collect samples of the soil and return them to Earth towards the end of 2020.
DLR was responsible for developing the MASCOT lander and ground segment, and is in charge of planning and conducting lander operations. CNES supplied the MicrOmega instrument, antennas and electrical power system. Hayabusa 2 was launched by JAXA, the Japanese space agency.