Japanese craft to deliver space rock to outback

Via The Age - Technology.

A JAPANESE spacecraft will land in Australia in June, bringing with it samples from an asteroid found 300 million kilometres from Earth.

The unmanned Hayabusa spacecraft, launched in May 2003, will become the first spacecraft to bring asteroid material to Earth when it lands in Woomera, South Australia, later this year.
''This is the first sample of a solid solar system body brought back since the moon missions some 40 years ago,'' said Jonathan Nally, editor of spaceinfo.com.au. ''It's a tremendous achievement by the Japanese.''

Het is zeker, gezien de vele tegenslagen die dit project heeft gehad, een prestatie van JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), maar of er ook daadwerkelijk samples van de asteroïde meekomen, dat is toch nog maar de vraag: de Hayabusa is immers waarschijnlijk niet op Itokawa geland.

On November 19 (2003), Hayabusa landed on the asteroid. There was considerable confusion during and after the maneuver about precisely what had happened, because the high-gain antenna of the probe could not be used during final phase of touch-down, as well as the blackout during handover of ground station antenna from DSN to Usuda station. It was initially reported that Hayabusa had stopped at approximately 10 meters from the surface, hovering for 30 minutes for unknown reasons. Ground control sent a command to abort and ascend, and by the time the communication was regained, the probe had moved 100 km away from the asteroid. The probe had entered into a safe mode, slowly spinning to stabilize altitude.[29] [30] However, after regaining control and communication with the probe, the data from the landing attempt were downloaded and analyzed, and on November 23, JAXA announced that the probe had indeed landed on the asteroid surface. [31] Unfortunately, the sampling sequence was not triggered since a sensor detected an obstacle during descent; the probe tried to abort the landing, but since its attitude was not appropriate for ascent, it chose instead a safe descent mode. This mode did not permit a sample to be taken, but there is a high probability that some dust may have whirled up into the sampling horn when it touched the asteroid, so the sample canister currently attached to the sampling horn was sealed. (Via Wikipedia)

De terugkeer wordt verwacht op 13 juni 2010 en dan zullen we weten of er wat asteroïde-stof is opgepakt.