Friday, November 11, 2005


Top Men at Wohba have been following the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Hayabusa spacecraft as it hovers near asteroid Itokawa. We've been waiting for the cool stuff - the cool stuff is about to happen. After an aborted practice session brought the craft to within 70 meters of the asteroid, all systems are go for another rehearsal and a touch-down.

Nov. 12 - Hayabusa approaches Itokawa and drops the Minerva* probe to the surface.
Nov. 19 - Hayabusa approaches, lands briefly to collect one gram of... uh... asteroid.
Nov. 25 - Another approach and brief landing to collect sample again (if necessary).
Early Dec. - Hayabusa begins journey back to Earth
June 2007 - Samples of asteroid drop to Earth in re-entry capsule.

UPDATE: Looks like Minerva* is AWOL. Hayabusa ejected it, expecting it to find the asteroid, but it had other plans - headed out to the undiscovered country. No hopping around with color cameras on the surface, but the landing and scooping mission will continue.

*The Minerva probe is a tiny (barely over one pound) mini-lander that will hop around the surface of the asteroid and send photos back to Hayabusa.


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