Jun
23
2010

Hayabusa comes home

So, this spacecraft that was launched over seven years ago to collect a sample off an asteroid is back? I didn't even know it had left! I am way out of the loop on the activities of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and if this mission is any example, they are doing some sweet stuff.

A Light in the Sky: Hayabusa streaked across the sky through the clouds as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Woomera Test Range in Australia. In Kingoonya, the spacecraft’s re-entry was visible to the human eye for 15 seconds.
A Light in the Sky: Hayabusa streaked across the sky through the clouds as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Woomera Test Range in Australia. In Kingoonya, the spacecraft’s re-entry was visible to the human eye for 15 seconds.Courtesy NASA/Ed Schilling
was launched on May 9, 2003 with the intent of it flying to an asteroid, photographing the bejesus out of it, then "landing" on it, collecting a sample and finally returning to Earth. And it did make it to the asteroid and back - returning to Earth on the 13th of June.

Hayabusa did have some troubles along the way – losing a miniprobe to deep space, the failure of two reaction wheels, the failure to properly land and collect a sample (though a sample may still have been obtained)… It was not a flawless mission, but to achieve what they did is no small feat - pretty amazing if you ask me.

Here are some links to learn more.
The JAXA main site.
Hayabusa JAXA mission page.

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