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Space Science

Hayabusa Returns Particles From Asteroid 100

Posted by timothy
from the homeopathic-samples dept.
The collection module of Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft, as recently noted, was on recovery believed to contain no samples from the asteroid Hayausa it had been sent to investigate. That conclusion may have been premature; reader mbone writes that "The BBC now has a story, 'Hayabusa capsule particles may be from asteroid.' Apparently JAXA (the Japanese Space Agency) has opened the sample container returned to Earth by Hayabusa, and has released 'images of tiny dust particles inside the container.' Whether they are asteroid particles or pieces of dust brought all the way from Earth remains to be seen, but they were certainly returned from the asteroid — a remarkable technical feat. This announcement, I think, gives considerable hope that these particles are from the near-Earth asteroid, Itokawa, as the Japanese have been very careful in trying to avoid contamination. Even a tiny speck of dust would be very revealing about the asteroid's constitution and possibly its history as well. Kudos to JAXA for a job well done."
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Hayabusa Returns Particles From Asteroid

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:43AM (#32810862) Homepage

    ...the fact that they managed to land on a moving asteroid is amazing. The fact that they were able to land on a moving asteroid, take off from that asteroid after landing, and successfully make it back to Earth is nothing short of astounding.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:47AM (#32810946)
      Next time, they need to leave Bruce Willis.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The "moving" part doesn't complicate anything once you're in space. It wouldn't be like a fly landing on a bullet; the asteroid is only moving relative to other objects in space. As far as the spacecraft is concerned the asteroid is stationary and it can take all the time it needs to land on it.

      • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:01AM (#32811198) Journal

        The "moving" part doesn't complicate anything once you're in space. It wouldn't be like a fly landing on a bullet; the asteroid is only moving relative to other objects in space. As far as the spacecraft is concerned the asteroid is stationary and it can take all the time it needs to land on it.

        Try adding a rotation into the mix. Imagine your asteroid is rotating around any axis - and trying to get a space-ship to FOLLOW that rotation without the gravity necessary to actually pull it in.

        It's much more complicated than high school physics class.

        • by Fat Cow (13247)

          I would aim for the non-rotating parts

        • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:21PM (#32812546)

          You can't forget that gravity either. Its small, but its significant. Because asteroids tend to have awkward shapes too, you can't depend on orbits or any of the other tools you'd use for a real planet. If you're not keeping a kilometer or more away, you have to have a really good gravity map to avoid smashing into the thing.

          But like you said, you can't depend on that gravity to actually hold you down, which makes it all harder still. Operations near asteroids are definitely one of the hardest things we do in deep space right now.

        • Let's not forget that most asteroids have natural thrusters, and can "course correct" at any time.

          ( this may not apply here, I have no idea where the asteroid was in relation to the sun )

          • Thinking of comets and their evaporation as they approach the Sun perhaps?

            This asteroid is an inner-solar system dwelling rock, not a deep space dirty snowball.

            • Ah yes, I see that it doesn't fall under what I was thinking.

            • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

              However, they can still exhibit some odd motion due to things like the Yarkovsky effect. Those are more important in the long term though, so aren't going to affect short term nav too much.

    • While I am a fan of this mission, you really can not call it a landing since the asteroid has such little gravity. The fact is, that if you were next to the asteroid and simply had a small leak in your face place, and faced the asteroid, you would take off. It is probably more accurate to say that Hayabusa was parked next to the asteroid, which in itself is quite an accomplishment.
      • by northernfrights (1653323) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:26AM (#32811558)
        Lol, I'm sure the original poster was well aware of the fact that there was negligible gravity. I don't think he was amazed by the actual act of lifting off the asteroid. It's the extremely precise trajectory that had to be flown in order to "park" next to the asteroid, and the fact that it actually had to stop, and then form a new extremely precise trajectory all of it's own accord to return back to earth. This is all totally unprecedented, and yes, it really is that amazing.
        • by JamesP (688957) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:16PM (#32812470)

          Yeah, I mean, you have the whole emptiness of space to park, but nooooo, you have to park right next to it, don't you. And then you open the door and hit it on the asteroid, isn't it...

          Bastard

        • It's the extremely precise trajectory that had to be flown in order to "park" next to the asteroid, and the fact that it actually had to stop, and then form a new extremely precise trajectory all of it's own accord to return back to earth.

          This is all totally unprecedented, and yes, it really is that amazing.

          It's unprecedented in the same way that you learning to parallel park was unprecedented. Sure, you had never 'driven a precise trajectory' before - but many, many others have.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It is probably more accurate to say that Hayabusa was parked next to the asteroid, which in itself is quite an accomplishment.

        That was the plan, but oops [planetary.org], MINERVA, the detachable mini-lander, missed, and went sailing off into deep space.

        For the sampling mission, the plan was to make brief contact with the sample-grabbing-gadget, but the probe actually sat there for 30 minutes [isas.jaxa.jp]. Then it popped back up, and tried again a few days later.

        Maybe it had a weight of a tenth of a gram in the feeble gravity of a

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ...the fact that they managed to land on a moving asteroid is amazing. The fact that they were able to land on a moving asteroid, take off from that asteroid after landing, and successfully make it back to Earth is nothing short of astounding.

      Especially considering that portion of the mission was secondary. It's primary mission was to test the ion engines.

      Of course, setting the bar relatively low is very common for these sorts of activities. The Mars Rovers had what, a 90-day, mission? Spirit was functio

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JamesP (688957)

        Curiously enough the ion engines failed big on this one...

        they had 3 engines. They would stop working, then get back to work, etc. They had to "take parts" of one ion engine and fit it on another engine (all electrically of course)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        Of course the 90 days was just the 'minimum for justification of the mission' and the 'warranty' period of the rovers (The minimum amount of time that they were expected to operate).

        No, that was just the estimated amount of time before dust accumulation on the solar panels would prevent it from receiving adequate power. The rovers and their components were never designed, estimated to last, or "warrantied" for 90 days, even as a low-ball minimum-guarantee. It was always a statement about environmental co

        • No, that was just the estimated amount of time before dust accumulation on the solar panels would prevent it from receiving adequate power. The rovers and their components were never designed, estimated to last, or "warrantied" for 90 days, even as a low-ball minimum-guarantee.

          Wow. You really are taking issue with the statement, "amount of time they were expected to operate", and suggesting that 'estimated amount of time' before they ceased to receive adequate power is that necessary of a distinction?

          Of c

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            Wow. You really are taking issue with the statement, "amount of time they were expected to operate", and suggesting that 'estimated amount of time' before they ceased to receive adequate power is that necessary of a distinction?

            I'm not taking issue with your precise wording, I'm taking issue with your entire characterization of the situation. You are comparing the 90 day mission time frame to the 6-year observed lifespan of the rovers and saying it was either a case of Scotty-esque absurd understatement, o

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      Considering the number of failures that they had it is nothing short of astounding.
      I just hope that they are from Itokawa. If not it will be yet another failure in a string that has plagued this mission. Let's hope it ends on a high note.

    • by pnewhook (788591)

      .the fact that they managed to land on a moving asteroid is amazing. The fact that they were able to land on a moving asteroid, take off from that asteroid after landing, and successfully make it back to Earth is nothing short of astounding.

      the fact that they tried to drive a rover onto the asteroid which immediately floated off into space because they forgot about a little thing called GRAVITY is nothing short of mind blowingly idiotic

    • by jafac (1449)

      Yeah, because usually, you just blast away at the asteroids until that flying saucer shows up, then it's 5000 bonus points! Every time I try to land on an asteroid though, BOOM!

  • If these prove to be dust particles from the asteroid, this will be a big step for mankind.

    • by cruff (171569) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:54AM (#32811078) Homepage

      If these prove to be dust particles from the asteroid, this will be a big step for mankind.

      Yes, we'll have found yet another place that needs vacuuming.

    • If these prove to be dust particles from the asteroid, this will be a big step for mankind.

      In other news; aliens made contact and mankind stepped into interplanetary communication. This is indeed a great step for humankind!

      After or worlds finest cryptologists made sense of the message and translated it to English, they've sent it to the public domain for interpretation and further research. The message was decrypted as saying:

      "Thanks, next week I'm on holiday it would be GREAT if you'd vacuum the other

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      If these prove to be dust particles from the asteroid, this will be a big step for mankind.

      Are the Japanese capable of lying, to save face?

      • by mattr (78516)

        While Japanese are people just like Americans with similar faults, there is one area that lying would be unthinkable: Science. Especially space. I believe there is even a belief in the purity of research into nature, that goes beyond what is generally found in the U.S.A.

        For example I remember seeing a story (animated and broadcast semiannually in Japan) about a scientist manning a seismic research station on a mountaintop, and he decides he must remain there during a volcanic eruption in order to give warni

        • by slick7 (1703596)

          While Japanese are people just like Americans with similar faults, there is one area that lying would be unthinkable: Science.

          Unfortunately, saving face is more important. Since Japanese society is communal, embarrassment reflects upon your elders / seniors (ie. family). Anything from cutting off a finger to committing sepuku is acceptable and often obligatory.
          The Yakuza has existed for centuries, possibly longer than the Sicilian mafia, they make their money however they can. Remember the banking scandal a few years back? Billions lost, people were embarrassed, people died, people came up missing, yet no mention of the Yakuza.
          Th

  • Not bad ... (Score:1, Funny)

    by lennier1 (264730)

    ... for a little Suzuki motorcycle.

    • Considering it's 86.4 inches long and weighs 550lbs "dry", the Hayabusa is actually a pretty large motorcycle.

      • by lennier1 (264730)

        True again.

        Unfortunately whoever marked the earlier comment as Flamebait and Offtopic seriously needs to develop a sense of humor.

      • No matter how fast I drive my Hayabusa, I've still not managed to get it up to escape velocity...let alone park it next to an asteroid!
  • I thought the name of the spacecraft was Hayabusa, not Hayausa... A little spell checking would not be that bad before posting stories! Not that I am a grammar freak (I am a french Canadian), but this one is so obvious!
  • Hopefully they will find something in the samples they brought back that indicates life or something equally as great (perhaps some new elements for the periodic table?).

    This incredible accomplishment comes shortly after America has scaled back it's space program and decided to concentrate on a "commercial" space industry. I hope that JAXA can continue doing what NASA is supposed to be doing too, which is pushing the final frontier and the technology needed to get there. Maybe if they start discovering new

    • Well, who knows, maybe in the near future some companies will invest in searching for extraterrestrial sources of rare-earth and heavy minerals. If they can find some solid leads on some of these asteroids, it could very well be the start of a 21st century land-grab (more specifically mineral grab) and perhaps the first step in colonization beyond Earth.
    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      Its doubtful you'd find anything life-like there, except maybe some building blocks. (And by life I mean life as we know it.) Also, no new elements, since the only new ones that could exist don't form from supernovae or anything like that. Its not like there are any missing, we just can't get stable ones higher than a certain atomic number. The real advances come from understanding the mineral content and its implications on how the solar system formed, as well as potentially opening up the long term po

    • by ScentCone (795499)
      Maybe ... it will push NASA and Obama to rethink their scaling back on the space program

      No need! Obama has already given NASA a brand new top priority. According to NASA's director, the agency's foremost (his word) objective is now to "reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering." No, really. That is the director's new top priority. Really [sfexaminer.com].
      • by slick7 (1703596)

        No need! Obama has already given NASA a brand new top priority. According to NASA's director, the agency's foremost (his word) objective is now to "reach out to the Muslim world ...

        And when you do reach out, they will chop off your hand. For a society that keeps its women covered, ignorant, completely devoid of legal and individual rights, no good will come of this.
        These people are in the 12th century, and have no desire to advance, except to advance intolerant Islam.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      Good thing they're doing the opposite of scaling back their program, broadening their cutting edge research along with their budget, and freeing up all the money wasted developing an in-house vehicle. NASA will be able to pursue more missions similar to what JAXA has done, testing new forms of propulsion and automated systems etc. Things that would not be possible if we kept pursuing an Apollo repeat that does nothing to advance us, just proves we can still do what we did 40 years ago, like a man in a mid

    • Hopefully they will find something in the samples they brought back that indicates life or something equally as great (perhaps some new elements for the periodic table?).

      Hopefully we won't be reduced to Sterno addicts and crying babies!

      For the younger folks, that was a (bad) reference to the "Andromeda Strain".

    • Why do you want new elements??
      Lessee..
      C, H, O, N, P, K, S, Mg for food and oxygen production
      Si for energy (amorphous Silicon solar cells)
      Fe, Al for construction
      Si, Ca, Na for glass (UV-shielded greenhouse)
      I probably missed a lot, e.g. how to keep it isolated from the cold.
      And then you have a very slow, but large & comfy and *VERY* well radiation-shielded, Mars spaceship:
      Mars crossers that are also Earth-crossers or grazers [wikipedia.org]
      C'mon! Don't tell me this hasn't crossed any of the Slashdotters
  • What is the second image a picture of? and why is that caption so terrible?
  • Now that Steve McQueen is dead, we are all doomed!!!
  • Sure, the Japanese *say* that this is being done for research purposes, but just wait until the leftover asteroid-meat starts turning up in markets around Tokyo. My new group, "Space Shepherds" stands against the Japanese asteroid-fleet, using a decommissioned space-shuttle, and we will interfere with their phony "research" in any way we can. C'mon people, at this rate, in only a few billion years, the Japanese will have decimated the population of asteroids to the point where these majestic clumps of ice

  • It's probably a flake of dandruff from one of the technicians.

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