Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hayabusa: Asteroid Probe Back Home, After Seven-Year Mission

"Asteroid Probe's Return to Earth Caught by Japanese Telescope" (June 16, 2010)

"Japan's Subaru telescope has released a series of photos it captured of the nation's beloved asteroid probe Hayabusa as it streaked through the sky on its descent down to Earth on Sunday. The mosaic of photos also includes a special appearance by a spiral galaxy in the background.

"The new batch of Hayabusa re-entry photos was released Wednesday. [Photos: Hayabusa's fiery Earth return.]

"Hayabusa returned from a seven-year space journey, during which it landed on asteroid 25143 Itokawa and attempted to collect a precious sample of space rock dust. Scientists have not yet opened the sample canister to see if it succeeded.

"The mission is popular among the Japanese people, with civilians even publishing photos of themselves dressed up as Hayabusa. The mission was launched by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2003...."

The Lemming doesn't, as a rule, include an article's in-text links in a micro-review. In this case, though, I think the return of an asteroid mission is enough of a big deal to warrant retaining the links.

Aside from 'pure science,' there are some very good reasons for learning more about asteroids. In the (very) long run, we may find that it's practical to mine asteroids. Much more immediately, the sooner we find out what they're made of - and exactly where their orbits are - the sooner we'll be in a position to do something before one of those things hits Earth again.

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