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Space Science

Hayabusa Earth Flyby Swings Toward Asteroid 85

An anonymous reader writes "As the first of its kind to return asteroid samples to Earth, the Japanese Hayabusa mission took pictures this week during its successful Earth flyby. Eventually headed to the asteroid belt, the probe will feature a novel sample collection 'horn' which hops around on the asteroid's surface and lands intermittently for only a second at a time. The samples will be dust clouds fired up from repeated bullet impacts, since the asteroid's low gravity makes it difficult to 'land' on. When faced with a similar problem, the European Rosetta mission alternatively will harpoon the surface to hang on while also touching down on another small-mass asteroid."
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Hayabusa Earth Flyby Swings Toward Asteroid

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  • by another_henry ( 570767 ) <> on Friday May 21, 2004 @06:37PM (#9221049) Homepage
    Check out this [] awesome photo of the Moon and Earth together, taken by Galileo more than a decade ago during its Earth flyby.
  • by beeplet ( 735701 ) <> on Friday May 21, 2004 @06:43PM (#9221105) Journal
    I'm surprised I never heard of this project before! It's a great idea - astroids contain various minerals that can be used to trace the evolution of the solar system. Of course we have some access to this info from the odd meteorite, but I would guess that rock from the astroid belt will be more "pristine".

    The only drawback I see for this project is that it is only going to sample the surface of the asteroid, which is the region most exposed to cosmic radiation, cratering, and accumulated dust. Naturally there is still something to be learned from that, but I hope this is just a prelude to a more advanced mission to bore larger samples from the asteroides. I imagine that the difficulties in doing that come mostly from stabilizing the spacecraft, given that it's likely the asteroids are actually loosely bound collections of the rubble left over from previous collisions. Of course, if they're not, that would be interesting too.

    And slightly off topic - I think this comparison is funny:

    The material in the belt ... ranges in size from dust particles to rock chunks as big as Alaska.

    Exactly how do you compare a large, roughly spherical mass to "the size of Alaska"? Maybe they mean the surface area is the same? The surface area of Alaska is about 1.5 million km-squared; the surface area of Ceres, the largest asteroid, is about 11 million km-squared - that's more like the total area of the US (9.6 million km-squared)!

    Or maybe they meant to compare the radii? If Alaska were circular, it would have a radius of 690 km. The radius of Ceres is 466 km. Interestingly, a better comparison in this case would be the size of France (effective radius of 420 km), and France is of course the international standard for measuring astronomical objects... Did you know that the base of Olympus Mons is also about the size of France?
  • by tslack2000 ( 781916 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @07:03PM (#9221235) Homepage
    Certainly taking this to the next level as compared with the NEAR [] (Nasa Probe) that was not designed to bring back material.

    While this is an improvement, it still only scratches the surface as it will only bring back "up to one gram of material". Also, consider that the gram of material is from the very surface of the asteroid, which is most likely contaminated by other collisions. Still quite an accomplishment if they can recover the material in 2007 as predicted.
  • Re:That's Funny... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by emtboy9 ( 99534 ) < minus physicist> on Friday May 21, 2004 @08:39PM (#9221881) Homepage
    Why is that so outrageous? Think about it. Earth sends off millions of watts of RF signal every second of every day. We inadvertantly beam out radio stations, television stations, communications, radar, etc etc etc.

    Now, since you assume that aliens, if there are any (personally I think there probably are) are not "stupid fucking idiots" then you would also have to assume that they have means of intercepting signals on one of the most simple forms of transmission available.

    Which means, for as long as the waves make it through space, anyone who gets the signal, decodes it, watches it, or listens to it and eventually understands it will hear Howard Stearn, Talk radio, really bad music, some really good music, several episodes of law and order a day, war movies, disaster movies, murder mysteries, violence in all formes of transmitted media, news feeds from war zones, news feeds from disaster zones, crime scenes, etc etc etc.

    How could they NOT get a very bad picture of earth, just by observing our inadvertant transmissions?

    And again, we ARE talking about a completely alien culture. For all they know, Independence Day was a documentary, showing that Earth will destroy anyone who attacks it from space. Or perhaps the War of the Worlds film will show them that if they land here, they will die of disease. Or worse.

    Maybe they will see "Day after Tomorrow" and decide that since the earth is now under hundreds of feet of ice and snow, we will be easy pickings.

    Then again, they may get wireless or satellite internet access, read slashdot, and fear the /. effect.
  • by beeplet ( 735701 ) <> on Friday May 21, 2004 @08:48PM (#9221930) Journal
    Quite true. It only jumped out at me because it seemed odd to compare a 3-dimensional object to a two-dimensional one. If they had specified how deep under alaska to measure in the 3rd dimension to obtain a volume of the same size, it would have made more sense.

    I also noticed it because the tendancy of science writers to compare large things with "the size of France" has become a running joke []. In addition to the Olympus Mons example, you might be interested to know that the Ross Ice Shelf [] (the largest ice shelf of Antarctica)is about the size of France. And another volcano [] (on Io) spews out ash that covers
    an area of (guess what...) the size of France!

    And for those who now want to know how big France is, exactly - well, it's 1/3 the size of Quebec [], and more to the point, about the same as the area covered by coral reef worldwide []. :)
  • Specifically... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Captain_Chaos ( 103843 ) on Saturday May 22, 2004 @10:09AM (#9224544)

    Hayabusa, which is Japanese for "falcon",...

    Specifically, a peregrine falcon [], which is the fastest animal in the world. It can reach speeds of 440 kph (275 mph) when diving for its prey. This also accounts for the name of the fastest road bike in the world, the Suzuki Hayabusa []. Impressive stuff...

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard