Since February 2007, JAXA has been carefully preparing to start the fully fledged return trip to Earth using the ion engine and one attitude control reaction wheels (as two of the three wheels are unavailable due to anomalies.) The Hayabusa’s return to the Earth is scheduled for June 2010.

We have faced challenges during the preparation, for example, the establishment of the attitude control that can maintain the alignment of the ion engines thrust vector took more time than expected, and more study was required to set up the operation method of the ion engine in consideration of its aged deterioration. We are now ready to start the return cruise operation with countermeasures for these problems.

Therefore, we would like to announce that on 2:30 p.m. on April 25 (Japan Standard Time) the Hayabusa was shifted to the fully fledged phase for the return cruise to Earth.

The operation is still challenging as we have to carefully monitor the conditions of the only active reaction wheel, the ion engine, and onboard equipment. We will operate the Hayabusa with the greatest care and utmost effort.