SUMMARY: The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) MUSES-C spacecraft snapped pictures of the Earth and Moon as it made a flyby past our planet. The maneuver is called a gravity assist, which uses the Earth's gravity to give the spacecraft a boost in speed. The ion engine powered spacecraft skimmed past our planet at an altitude of only 3700 km before continuing on towards its final target: Asteroid Itokawa (1998SF36). It will reach the asteroid in summer 2005, and then spend 5 months orbiting and collecting samples from its surface. It will then leave the asteroid and return the samples to Earth in 2007.
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