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The government has decided to include a ¥16.4 billion project for the Hayabusa-2 probe in its space program, following the successful seven-year round trip to an asteroid by the probe’s predecessor.

The unmanned Hayabusa probe, which returned to Earth in June, “boosted Japanese people’s self-confidence . . . and made them reaffirm the significance of space development,” the government headquarters for space development strategy, comprising Prime Minister Naoto Kan and all of his Cabinet members, said in a statement Friday.

The move came ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline for the filing of budget requests for the next fiscal year starting April 2011.

The Hayabusa-2 is scheduled to be launched in fiscal 2014 for a trip to the asteroid 1999JU3, which is believed to be rich in hydrated minerals and organic substances.

The probe will observe the asteroid before landing and collecting samples of rocks and other materials on the surface and in a crater that it will create artificially before returning to Earth in 2020, according to the government.

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