In addition to the asteroid return mission, Japan's space agency, JAXA, just unfurled the first solar sail ever tested in space. (There have been other solar sail launches, but they were undone by launch mishaps.) The results solidify Japan's status as a technically innovative, highly accomplished space exploration power. As this article notes, the space program has become a source of pride in this recession-wracked nation.
COMMENT: This is a good reminder of something I've been working on for a couple of years now: fostering greater international cooperation in civil space exploration. Space exploration is costly (although the two Japanese missions were strikingly cost-effective compared to recent US missions) and technically difficult. If our species cannot pull together on exploring the universe, what can we agree on?