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 user 2005-10-04 at 10:45:00 am Views: 59
  • #13154

    Probe set for asteroid touch down

    Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft will soon move into place for an historic attempt to collect a sample from an asteroid.

    During its encounter with asteroid Itokawa, Hayabusa will touch down twice and send a small robot to the surface.
    This could have great scientific value; the sample could
    help researchers learn more about the raw materials that made up the
    early Solar System

    Japanese scientists have also proposed names for significant regions of the asteroid’s surface.

    Hayabusa has been collecting spectral data and images of
    Itokawa from its “gate” position, about 20km (12 miles) from the
    Over the next few days, the probe will move into its “home” position, just 7km (4.3 miles) from the asteroid.
    Two tries
    In November, the probe will make two brief touchdowns on the asteroid.
    Because of the low gravity on these bodies, the probe cannot stay on its surface for very long.

    Each time it “lands”, it will fire a metal pellet into
    the surface at 300m/s. After the firings, the probe takes off to
    collect the dust ejected by the impact.
    Hayabusa will conduct a practice run before the two sample collection attempts.
    The Japanese probe will also deploy a small robotic
    “hopper” called Minerva. This will perform several 10m-high jumps on
    the surface, taking pictures and temperature readings.
    Mission scientists have named the smooth terrain on the
    asteroid the Muses Sea, after the home of the goddesses of arts and
    sciences in Greek mythology.
    A possible crater on Itokawa has been called Uchinoura
    Bay, after the spaceport area on Kyushu island where Hayabusa blasted
    Another potential impact structure has been named
    Woomera Desert after the area where the mission’s sample return capsule
    is to be recovered.
    Hayabusa’s sample-return cannister should parachute back to Earth in June 2007.
    The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) launched Hayabusa on 9 May 2003 aboard an M-V-5 rocket.