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2003-Jul-08, 10:07 PM
SUMMARY: A Japanese M-5 rocket lifted off on Friday carrying a spacecraft which will be the first to ever collect samples from the surface of an asteroid. Called Muses-C, the spacecraft will take only two years to reach asteroid 1998 SF 36 - one of the Earth’s closest space neighbours – and then return to Earth by 2007. A grapefruit-sized marker imprinted with nearly 900,000 names will also be dropped onto the asteroid’s surface.

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2006-Mar-06, 12:28 PM
The asteroid in question was eventually named Itokawa, for a famous Japanese rocket scientist.

25143 Itokawa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/25143_Itokawa)

And the eventual name of the spacecraft became Hayabusa, the Japanese word for falcon

Hayabusa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayabusa)

Hayabusa had a few troubles touching down on Itokawa, but eventually did so succesfully and is now due back on Earth, near Woomera, Australia, around June 2010 - which is a significant slip from the earlier projected touchdown of sometime in 2007, but it should definitely be bringing some interesting results to the table!