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Japanese-German Asteroids Research Mission

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(EIRNS)—In the context of the German Space Agency’s (DLR) opening an office in Tokyo yesterday, it was emphasized that after the United States, Japan is DLR’s most important non-European cooperation partner. At present, DLR and Japan’s space agency, JAXA, cooperate on 25 projects, prominently including the Hayabusa-2 asteroid mission, for which DLR has developed the MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) asteroid lander, which is scheduled to fly to "1999 JU3" in 2014 on board a Japanese spacecraft, where it will take measurements on the asteroid’s surface.

Asteroid 1999 JU3 is of particular interest to researchers, DLR points out, because it consists of 4.5-billion-year-old material that has been altered very little. "Measurements taken from Earth also indicate that the asteroid’s rock may have come into contact with water," explains Ralf Jaumann, a DLR planetary researcher and scientific spokesman for the experiments on the lander. "MASCOT is due to take measurements of the regolith itself, which will provide reference data about the surface and enable the samples subsequently brought back by Hayabusa-2 to be interpreted in the correct context." 1999 JU3 belongs to a type of asteroid that is one of the most common among near-Earth asteroids, some information about its properties will be important in the event that one of these bodies is ever on a collision course with Earth. [DLR, RAP]