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Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2, launched by the Japan Space Exploration Agency from its Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Dec. 5, is flying without a hitch so far. The spacecraft is a successor to Hayabusa, which was launched in 2003 and arrived back on Earth in 2010 after collecting surface samples from Asteroid Itokawa in 2005.

While Hayabusa’s achievement has been laudable and Hayabusa2 is an upgraded and improved version, Japan should not feel complacent. It must move to the next phase in space exploration, since the nation’s overall space exploration capabilities thus far leave much to be desired.

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