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Space Science

Hayabusa Captured Asteroid Dust Confirmed 60

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the grats-to-everyone dept.
astroengine writes "It's been a seven-year roller-coaster ride for the asteroid sample return mission, but JAXA — the Japanese space agency — has confirmed that 1,500 particles of dust from the surface of asteroid Itokawa have been found inside the sample return capsule. The capsule parachuted to Earth shortly before the Hayabusa spacecraft reentered over the Australian Outback in June. Since then, scientists have been painstakingly analyzing the capsule's contents to make sure the dust they found wasn't terrestrial contamination. Now they are sure, making this the first time a sample has been collected from the surface of an asteroid (and only the second time a sample has been returned from a celestial object, the first being the Moon missions)."
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Hayabusa Captured Asteroid Dust Confirmed

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  • by pongo000 (97357) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @10:36AM (#34241598)

    Now they are sure, making this the first time a sample has been collected from the surface of an asteroid (and only the second time a sample has been returned from a celestial object, the first being the Moon missions).

    Not exactly. [nasa.gov] Unless you don't consider comets "celestial objects."

  • Third Time (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @10:37AM (#34241612)

    This is the third time a sample has been returned from a celestial object. The second being the Stardust program from NASA that brought back material from the tail of a comet.

  • "The" Moon missions? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @10:40AM (#34241654)

    Uhh, the Russians would like a word: LUNA 16.
    Why do we forget the accomplishments of the Russians? [wikipedia.org]
    So I hope "the Moon missions" includes the Russians, not just Apollo? Yes? Spaceeba!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @10:49AM (#34241768)

    If we're going to argue over semantics, technically they're not. A celestial object is something you naturally see in the sky. An asteroid is a celestial object, but upon impact with the earth it becomes a meteorite.

  • by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @11:11AM (#34241998) Homepage Journal

    It's not just semantics, it is a meaningful distinction, since it undergoes significant chemical changes as it heats up in the atmosphere. Besides, every atom of the Earth was part of a celestial object at some point in the past.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @12:17PM (#34243044) Homepage Journal
    They are. [wikipedia.org]
  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @12:33PM (#34243340) Homepage Journal
    One of the other very important achievements of the Hayabusa mission was its successful demonstration of ion propulsion technology in spacecraft. Hayabusa was one of the first full-scale implementations that relied entirely on a redundant configuration of ion drives. While three of the drives ended up failing by the end of the mission (the missions lifetime was extended far beyond the planned operational life of the spacecraft), the configuration demonstrated that a redundant system could be used to account for thruster failures. Furthermore, the demonstration of this particular technology will decrease the risk factors associated with ion propulsion technology, thus encouraging its adoption in future space missions. This new technology should help to reduce fuel load on future spacecraft, thus increasing the size of any particular mission payload. In other words, we will be able to get more science bang for our space buck because of the technology demonstrated in this mission.

    Furthermore, this mission helped JAXA further configure their deep space communications network which will be shared with other space-faring nations in the future. The more players we have in the space race the better it will be for everyone involved. Increasing the number of tuned and configured deep space communication antennae increases the total throughput of data that can be processed by partnered space agencies. Again, this correlates to a potential increase in scientific data returned from future missions.

    Finally, Hayabusa actually touched down on the asteroid. The data collected by JAXA during this maneuver will prove to be invaluable for future missions that involve low-gravity objects (comets, asteroids, small moons, etc.). All in all, the data and experience gained by the Hayabusa team will pay off in the space industry for decades to come with or without the asteroid dust. That's not to belittle the sample return. That, too, is a great achievement. However, it is important to note just what a tremendous step this mission was for the space industry in general.
  • by cupofjoe (727361) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @01:17PM (#34244044)

    Uhh, don't forget Genesis:

    http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]

    Sure, it had a hairy reentry/recovery, but it certainly recovered samples from the inner Solar System. These were likely attributable to the Sun or were of interstellar origin.

    --joe.

  • the dust (Score:2, Informative)

    by jpkeating (652833) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @12:04AM (#34251408)
    The microscope photo in the article shows four man-made particles of aluminum (blue arrows) plus one particle of olivine (left red arrow) and one of pyroxene (right red arrow).

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