The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Ministry of Education, officially started the MUSES-C project this fiscal year. It is aiming to sample and return from the near Earth asteroid Nereus (4660), scheduled to be launched in January of 2002, returning the samples in 2006. It is the world's first attempt at returning the surface samples from the extra-terrestrial body. The MUSES-C is the technology building spacecraft, through which some key technologies requisite for the future missions are exploited. Four major new techniques are included among them: they are, firstly, the use of the ion thrusters in the interplanetary field as a primary propulsion means, which enables even the smallest spacecraft to carry out the sophisticated mission like this. Secondly, the autonomous guidance and navigation via the optical measurements around the asteroid. Since MUSES-C makes a descent and touch-down to the surface and the ground-based remote-control at the distance of 1 AU was found not feasible. Thirdly, the sample acquisition technique that is supposed to cope with a wide variety of the surface conditions under the faint gravity. Finally, the direct hyperbolic reentry from the interplanetary trajectory with the speed of up to 13 km/sec. It is also expected that the keys or clues to the origin of the solar systems might be disclosed via the returned sample. This paper presents the updated mission scenario as well as the current status and readiness of those key techniques, introducing the ground facilities and experiments for developing them.
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