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NASA Space Science

No Samples On Japan's Hayabusa Asteroid Probe 147

Posted by kdawson
from the one-long-fezzle dept.
eldavojohn writes "Reports are coming in that JAXA's Hayabusa probe may have come up empty-handed in its bid to collect asteroid matter. There may be gas in the probe but no dust samples as many hoped. Murphy's Law seemed to ride with Hayabusa. 'After landing in 2005 on the Itokawa asteroid, which is about one-third mile long and shaped like a potato, the probe's sample-capture mechanism went awry. To the public's dismay, JAXA officials said they were not sure whether any samples had been collected. Next, the probe's robotic rover, meant to take photos and temperature readings on the asteroid, inexplicably floated off into space and was never heard from again. Worse yet, after Hayabusa took off from the asteroid, all four of NEC's ion engines shut down. So did all 12 of the chemical-fueled rocket engines made by another space industry giant, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The probe was left drifting in space. Then, for more than seven weeks, for reasons still not clear, there were no communication signals from the probe. Public dismay quickly turned to derision and, eventually, indifference.' The probe did return, however, and JAXA hoped to salvage something, but now it appears that the only thing it accomplished was one long and error-prone journey."
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No Samples On Japan's Hayabusa Asteroid Probe

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  • by xaxa (988988) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:16AM (#32772072)

    The collection of samples was a bonus. The actual purpose of the mission was to test the ion-drive, which was fully successful as they ran for more than 1000 hours.

    See here [wikipedia.org] for the mission milestones -- note that all the things above 100 points are a bonus.

  • Yup! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Benfea (1365845) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:27AM (#32772192)
    Try something that difficult and there is always the risk of failure. I hope they try again!
  • by Silm (1135973) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:37AM (#32772294)

    The submitter of this article has no idea what he is talking about. It will take months to even be sure that there is something in there.
    The only tests that have been done to date on the canister is a CT scan which can only detect samples as big as a grain of sand, way bigger then was expected.
    The gas in the capsule might have come from evaporated organics / ice of some form. How was this gas detected? The top of the capsule behaved slightly diffirent ( on a sub-millimetre scale ) in various pressure surroundings ( Nitrogen and CO2 under various pressures )

    The container has not been opened yet. All this talk is bullocks. The japanese estimate right now is that it will take some MONTHS to come till they know if they have something. The tiniest of particles is enough for this.
    Furthermore, the source, a NYT article, does not reflect at all the actual goal of the mission - for this, I refer to wikipedia.
    Succes for Hayabusa is considered 100 points. I'll repeat that: Primary mission objective succes is defined as 100 points. You do the math.

    Operation of Ion Engines
    50 points Success
    Operation of Ion Engines for more than 1000 hours
    100 points Success
    Earth Gravity Assist with Ion Engines
    150 points Success
    Rendezvous with Itokawa with Autonomous Navigation
    200 points Success
    Scientific Observation of Itokawa
    250 points Success
    Touch-down and Sample Collection
    275 points Success
    Capsule Recovered
    400 points Success
    Sample obtained for Analysis
    500 points Uncertain

    This mission IS A BIG SUCCES. There is no other way to talk about it. In the NYT article it is stated this mission was a failure as soon as there is no dust.
    And next to that, as said above, it is absolute BS to talk about succes or not at this point.

  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:58AM (#32772568)

    the trick is to make it look like you always meant it to work that way

    "Look! Our probe.. it's floating away into deep space without control! WHAT DO!"
    "CALL THE ENGINEERS!"
    "Yes, um, well.. in the requirements was clearly described for the probe to be autonomous. The fact that you do not have control is in fact this feature."
    "But it's floating A-WAY!"
    "The purpose of this mission was to 'float away from earth', otherwise there would be no use, would there?"
    "TOWARDS A ROCK"
    "Yes, but did you specify WHICH rock? It'll eventually hit one."

  • Not a fair summary (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:10PM (#32778818)

    "The probe did return, however, and JAXA hoped to salvage something, but now it appears that the only thing it accomplished was one long and error-prone journey."

    No, it tested the ion propulsion system and the pictures of the asteroid [wikipedia.org] are fantastic [isas.jaxa.jp]. Look at them all [google.com]. The first "rubble pile" asteroid photographed up close. There was a whole special issue of Science [sciencemag.org] dedicated to the imaging and other results. Sure, plenty of things didn't work, plenty of things broke, it took much longer, but the real accomplishment was still managing to get a very useful mission out of it, and as others have pointed out, it's premature to say there is nothing in the sample container.

    This mission was a triumph! A huge success. And they're still doing science! :-)

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