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Japanese Asteroid Mission May Be Stuck in Space


A Japanese probe that may be carrying the first-ever samples from an asteroid may be stranded in space.

Japan's space agency says it has put the Hayabusa probe in a safe-hold mode while it investigates a problem with the craft's thruster system. Officials say one set of thrusters apparently has developed a leak, while the other may have frozen.

On Saturday, the Hayabusa touched down on the Itokowa asteroid, about 290 million kilometers from Earth. It is believed to have gathered powder from the asteroid's surface, but scientists will not know for sure until the craft returns.

Hayabusa was launched in 2003 and is scheduled to return in 2007.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.