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NASA Australia Space Science

NASA Astronomers To Observe Hayabusa's Fiery Homecoming 142

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-back-hotter dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA said that a group of its astronomers will have a front row seat in Australia to watch the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa's high-speed, fiery return to Earth. It is bringing with it a hunk of the asteroid Itokawa. The spacecraft is expected to land in an unpopulated area of Australia at approximately midnight locally, or 7 am PDT, on Sunday, June 13. Some 30 NASA astronomers will be flying onboard a specially equipped DC-8 with instruments that can monitor Hayabusa's reentry."
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NASA Astronomers To Observe Hayabusa's Fiery Homecoming

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  • Hayabusa! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fishexe (168879) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @08:18PM (#32518340) Homepage
    He will become the ninja dragon!
    • by vxice (1690200)
      At first I thought someone had had some good fun with their motorcycle. The Suzuki gsxr-1300 (aka Hayabusa) is more motorcycle than you really need and I imagine it would only take a little bit of tweaking to get it to space.
  • Actually... (Score:5, Informative)

    by fauxhemian (1281852) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @08:20PM (#32518374)
    JAXA is not at all certain that it is bringing a "hunk" or much at all of Itokawa back with it. The firing mechanism which was meant to fire a bullet into the asteroid malfunctioned. They're just hoping it picked up enough residue. After the various mishaps this spacecraft encountered, it's been a good effort to get it home.
    • by ascari (1400977) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @08:33PM (#32518486)
      But no matter what it brings back from Itokawa we can be certain that Godzilla will rise out of the dust of the Australian desert...
      • by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @08:55PM (#32518688)

        But no matter what it brings back from Itokawa we can be certain that Godzilla will rise out of the dust of the Australian desert...

        Especially as the piece of dust in the Australian desert they are talking about is the Woomera Prohibited Area. It is prohibited because of the high levels of radioactivity remaining from nuclear weapons testing. You couldn't script this better.

        • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @10:34PM (#32519320) Journal

          You couldn't script this better.

          Is that a challenge? We've got a number of very creative people on slashdot who would be happy to take you up on that.

          Just some ideas on how things could get better:

          The observation craft crashes in said desert, with the only survivors being the three very attractive but brainy female NASA scientists who unfortunately were slightly injured and had to tear the midriffs from their shirts in order to apply tourniquets to the pilot of the plane, who, despite their best efforts, expired on the desert flats -- but not before handing our intrepid heroines a jailbroken iPad with a map of a secret city in the desert.

          The secret city, of course, is populated by mutants who are engaged in a war of factions between the aborigines and the whites. The whites have a technological advantage, but are really mean. The aborigines, however, reveal secrets to our heroines via a half-naked drug-addled walkabout whereupon it is discovered that the residue from the asteroid contains the last component to the ritual that awakens Croczilla from his dusty resting place and floods the desert, who upon awakening will be hungry for the other other white meat.

          That's all I've got so far, I'm not sure how they'll keep Croczilla from destroying the opera house in Sydney. However, I'm quite sure it involves ridiculous sci-fi weapons and more toplessness of our heroines, and perhaps some beer.

          • by aevan (903814)
            Given a choice between that or Letters from Juliet? Yeah, I'd see it. Root for the croc too
          • by JWSmythe (446288)

                I think I saw that on the SciFi channel (err.. syfy) a while back. :) Well, except they didn't have iPads.

          • by jd (1658)

            I thought it involved feeding it Tom Jones. Or was that another sci-fi story?

          • Well, I'm sold. Just no Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer 'cause I want some rated R sci-fi.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756)

      The firing mechanism which was meant to fire a bullet into the asteroid malfunctioned. They're just hoping it picked up enough residue.

      True that. I wonder however, seeing as they are thinking that it's a tiny amount of residue rather than what they really wanted, whether it will be tainted on it's re-entry and landing process.

      Not to mock their efforts, it's utterly amazing what they have done, and on what sort of budget, but I just hope that it doesn't go tits-up at the last moment for them with this - or worse yet, they do some research, and it ends up being called into doubt due to possible contamination.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Judging from publicity that the breakup gets this is probably the apogee of it's mission.

  • There aren't many parts of the world that are unpopulated. And people do live in the bush in Australia. Just not many. That said, it'll take more than something falling from space to kill anyone who can rough it out there, since everything in the bush is deadly. Even the plants have it in for you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AK Marc (707885)
      "[...]it will land in the Woomera Prohibited Area in Australia."

      As far as I can tell, any place with "prohibited area" in the name doesn't sound hospitable.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Any place called "prohibited area" in Australia must be a horrible, horrible place to live.
      • As far as I can tell, any place with "prohibited area" in the name doesn't sound hospitable.

        Oh sure, just because the place is teeming with unexploded munitions, you think it's somehow less hospitable than most of the bush? Please -- it's more hospitable! I mean, there's signs of civilization in there and stuff...

        • As far as I can tell, any place with "prohibited area" in the name doesn't sound hospitable.

          Oh sure, just because the place is teeming with unexploded munitions, you think it's somehow less hospitable than most of the bush? Please -- it's more hospitable! I mean, there's signs of civilization in there and stuff...

          It was used for open air nuclear bomb tests for many years. Beliive me you don't want to go there.

        • by e9th (652576)
          Yes. Hayabusa makes it all the way back intact, only to land on a large, unexploded bomb.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Convector (897502)
        It's just a name. Like the "Death Zone" or the "Zone of No Return". All the zones have names like that on the Continent of Terror.
      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        Any place called "prohibited area" sounds like a dare. It's kind of like putting a big "do not enter" sign with no obvious reason why. 95% of folks won't go. The rest of us will say "Hmm, I wonder why it's prohibited, lets go have a look." :)

        Sometimes I don't deal well with authority, especially when it's just a line on a map that says "don't go here.". Well, unless I drew the line, but that would be because I already went there. :)

        Their sign [wikipedia.org] doesn't scare me

    • by isny (681711)
      Well, if it isn't, it will be.
    • I don't think that 500 kilograms moving at supersonic speed are going to care how tough you are..

    • Re:"unpopulated" (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Cimexus (1355033) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:33AM (#32521452)

      It is true that there aren't many parts of the world that are unpopulated. However, large tracts of Australia genuinely are. There are certain patches of Australia where it is likely that no human has ever set foot (yes, including Aborigines). There really are very few other places in the world that are as 'empty' as the interior of Australia. Antarctica obviously. And random areas of the Greenland ice cap. And not much else.

      However in this case the area mentioned in the article is empty not because of its remoteness, but because it's a military reserve/testing ground. They did atmospheric nuclear testing there in the 50s. Non authorised personnel aren't allowed - so they can be reasonably confident it's 'unpopulated' for the purposes of the Hayabusa landing.

  • i'd rather watch gary rothwell's hayabusa [garyrothwell.com]
  • by laggist (784355) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @08:36PM (#32518518)
    Being the avid Sci-fi fan that I am, I can't help but wonder if the the people who made the choice of landing of Hayabusa in an unpopulated outback of Australia gave any thought to the idea that the asteroid Itokawa may be a source of biological contaminants?

    What I'm saying is, Hayabusa lands in the heart of unpopulated Australia, then a small town in the area gets ravaged by "bio-terror", then the military issues a media blackout.. You know, the standard plot of a zombie outbreak ensues..

    I can't be the only one who thought of this scenario.. Does anyone else think the same as me? Discuss!

    tl;dr - Choice of remote Australian outback for Hayabusa to stem contagion fears in case of zombie outbreak?? Discuss.
    • I can't be the only one who thought of this scenario.. Does anyone else think the same as me?

      Yes [imdb.com].

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      I've never really got how "viruses from space" would be particularly dangerous. Viruses and germs and such didn't get dangerous by accident- they're highly evolved, highly specialised, purpose built to infect their hosts.

      How adapted is something from another world, with completely alien biology, likely to be for infecting humans and other animals?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JWSmythe (446288)

        It would be dumb luck. Something that existed somewhere else in the universe that thrived, can handle living in space, and could infect those pesky mammals that think they own the earth.

        If the panspermia theory is correct, that wouldn't be all that questionable. Well, if across the span of the entire universe, a rock happened to be tossed into space, that happened to have a virus, that happened to be able to survive to the earth, that happened to infect a mammal host b

      • by juhaz (110830)

        There are quite a few opportunistic pathogens that are non-specialized, eg. soil bacteria that are normally free-living but if you're exposed with a weakened immune system or manage to get them into a wound, you may be in trouble. I imagine some space bugs might be dangerous in similar way, but indeed, spreading like wildfire from people to people is a mere fantasy - unless it's genetically engineered by the Evil Aliens(TM), of course.

    • Ummm, the requisite conditions, "...in the heart of unpopulated Australia..."...and "a small town in the area...", don't play well together.

      That's completely ignoring the likelihood that an alien biological contaminant would be incompatible with life on earth. In other words, I wouldn't worry too much about it.
  • "High Speed Dirt" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IonOtter (629215) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @08:38PM (#32518542) Homepage

    "See the earth below,
    Soon to make a crater!
    Blue sky, black death,
    I’m off to meet my maker!"

    • You'll need to come up with a haiku.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @08:39PM (#32518558)

    Does anyone know if there is more information? I.e. Which side of Australia will it approach from and a more exact time? I'll be a couple of hours out of Sydney and would like to know if it will be observable. A quick search around NASA's website and Google didn't reveal anything helpful.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      I'd give you an answer, but it'll come in the opposite direction, seeing as it's Australia.
    • You would have to be at Woomera to have a hope of seeing anything.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hmmm... hate to answer my own question, but the details of the trajectory are here: http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/enterp/missions/hayabusa/trj.shtml#new
      Looks like Western Australia should get a glimpse as it flies past, although I don't think you'd see it from Perth - would have to be a fair bit north of there I'd imagine... maybe somewhere in between Carnarvon and Karratha?

      • by dtmos (447842) *

        Nah -- too high. According to the site you provided, it'll be 600 km up when it crosses the coast. However, the folk to the northwest of Glendambo, SA should get quite a look. You'll remember Glendambo -- it's the town with the famous sign [excelsiortc.com]:

        "Welcome to Glendambo
        Elevation 150m
        Population........
        Sheep........22,500
        Flies........2,000,000 (approx.)
        Humans........30"

    • I'm sure Yahoo has the answer to that. Just ask this guy [youtube.com].

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

          Well, from the little bit I know about it, the best direction to look would be up. Gravity should be taking care of the rest. :)

  • First the Americans, then the Japanese...
  • Home again! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joh (27088) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @09:10PM (#32518790)

    In case you haven't followed that drama you should do that now [wikipedia.org]. Keeping that bird in control, managing it to do some science and finally getting it back was seriously heroic by JAXA. This was easily the most problem-ridden probe ever making it back (well, almost now). I hope the last leg of that epic journey will go well.

    • Re:Home again! (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @09:16PM (#32518822) Homepage Journal

      Though I recall that when the vehicle bounced off the asteroid the operators had no idea whether it had collected material from the surface and it is likely they still don't know.

      • ....the operators had no idea whether it had collected material from the surface and it is likely they still don't know.

        Yeah, well, leave it to the Slashdot community to just make shit up in the summary for no apparent reason. Look on the bright side, at least there aren't any threads on this story complaining about how bad the media is at factually portraying technical media. Sometimes the irony of those rants being posted on Slashdot is just too much to handle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FleaPlus (6935)

      Yesterday I came across a really neat English-sub version of a Japanese trailer, which I'm guessing is for a documentary about Hayabusa's dramatic journey. It's definitely worth a watch:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsQp9Zey27Y [youtube.com]

      There's also a much more surreal Japanese video depicting a cartoon version of Hayabusa as a cat with solar panel wings:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0Ey3dNeCeM [youtube.com]

      As I don't speak/read Japanese I'm not really sure what's happening in it though, other than that it's very strange.

  • Its a 24 hour drive to Woomera, and from Saturday I will actually be allowed to drive again. But medically its just a really bad idea to spend two whole days on the road right now. It would be great to be close to the landing (or crash, or splat) but in reality I would just spend a few hours waiting at the road block with binoculars stuck to my eys, then turn around and go home.

    You can tell, we don't see space craft very often in .au

  • The Japanese will probably just get fined for littering.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      The Japanese will probably just get fined for littering.

      We haven't had much luck fining them for killing whales so I don't like our chances with this one.

  • by Oscar_Wilde (170568) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @09:46PM (#32518990) Homepage

    NASA astronomers will be flying onboard a specially equipped DC-8

    Sure, right.

    We all know that when they say "astronomers" they really mean Xenu.

    We all know that when they say "DC-8"s the really mean space ships that look exactly like DC-8s.

    Don't be fooled people! It's all happening again!

  • by l2718 (514756) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @09:48PM (#32519004)
    There's an important point to the re-entry process, separate from the asteroid sample: the craft will be coming at interplanetary speed (about escape velocity from Earth) -- is much faster than typical re-entries from Earth-orbit. Seeing if the heat-shielding technology will work is important for future missions around the solar system.
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @10:15PM (#32519208) Homepage Journal

      There's an important point to the re-entry process, separate from the asteroid sample: the craft will be coming at interplanetary speed (about escape velocity from Earth) -- is much faster than typical re-entries from Earth-orbit. Seeing if the heat-shielding technology will work is important for future missions around the solar system.

      Yeah I suppose so but the Galileo entry probe entered Jupiter at 45km/s or so and it survived okay. Designing a heat shield is really just a question of how much energy vs how thick to make it.

    • Seeing if the heat-shielding technology will work is important for future missions around the solar system.

      Unless they're using some radically new heatshielding materials (which I haven't heard of), not really. Heatshielding is a fairly well understood technology and surviving faster reentries is pretty much just a matter of a having a thicker shield.

  • It took the US 30 years and a fundraiser to pay for the littering of Skylab [wikipedia.org]. Hope the Japanese are less of a bunch of deadbeats.

  • They're using DC-8s, man! That and the fiery reentry is supposed to make us remember about our Thetan past.

  • The spacecraft is expected to land in an unpopulated area of Australia

    Australia is populated?

  • on premium unleaded is AMAZING. I can't wait to see how fast one is with space technology for an engine!

  • Has anyone noticed that if you look at DC-8 while tilting your head to the right it looks like an angry man? Especially if you add a greater-than for the eyebrows.
  • by AP31R0N (723649)

    Is "to" French for "will"?

Byte your tongue.

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