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Toy maker Bandai Co. will launch scale models of the Hayabusa space probe on June 24, a year after the unmanned machine miraculously returned to Earth to deliver samples from the asteroid Itokawa.

The one-twenty-fourth scale models are 12.9 cm high, 25.4 cm wide and 18.5 cm long. Made primarily of zinc alloy, they were developed under the supervision of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The models can deploy solar paddles and eject a capsule, the company said. Bandai plans to produce 6,000 units through the end of December and price them at ¥24,150.

Hayabusa was launched in May 2003 and landed on Itokawa in September 2005. Despite malfunctions and problems, it returned to Earth last June to jettison its sample canister before burning up upon re-entry. The canister was recovered in an Australian desert.

The story captivated the public as details of the hurdles its minders had to overcome, including lost communication and engine trouble, came to light after the probe ended its mission three years behind schedule.

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