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Space Science

Hayabusa To Begin Long Journey Back to Earth 92

Sparky writes "Japan is planning to set the Hayabusa spacecraft on a trajectory back to Earth next month after a delay of more than a year, but it's far from certain that it will get back safely. It was supposed to retrieve asteroid debris, but it's thought that a computer error prevented that from happening. A fuel leak means that its chemical thrusters are out of action, and the craft is relying on its weaker ion engines. The journey back will take 3 years, and the capsule will be on Earth in June 2010 — even if it is empty."
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Hayabusa To Begin Long Journey Back to Earth

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  • obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by President_Camacho ( 1063384 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:38PM (#18031264) Homepage
    Hayabusa To Begin Long Journey Back to Earth
    I'm sure Ken and Guile miss him.
  • What's the point in bringing it back if it's empty? Why not park it out of the way somewhere where it can be retrieved or recycled later, or repaired for another attempt?
    • by biocute ( 936687 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:39PM (#18031282) Homepage
      Maybe to test if the re-entry works.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by stratjakt ( 596332 )
      Because they don't know if it is empty, and because it's neither possible nor at all easy to "just park it out of the way somewhere and go get it later".
    • by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <<megazzt> <at> <>> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:43PM (#18031346) Homepage
      As the summary clearly indicates, they're not 100% sure wtf is up with it. Bringing it back allows them to figure that out, as well as collect any asteroid debris it might have successfully picked up. In addition, they'll be able to track down the computer error to avoid it occurring in future craft. Same with the fuel leak.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Its highly likely that none of the parts that malfunctioned will be contained within the reentry package - theres no point in having those parts retrievable, all you want is the science package so thats all you bring to the ground. The rest will burn up in the atmosphere after seperation.

        They are going through with the reentry because theres a chance they did get some debris, and they want to see if the reentry procedure works.
    • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:45PM (#18031382) Homepage Journal
      Because they spent however million building a ship capable of a return voyage.
      It will be wasted if they just give up.
      I think this is invaluable research and has taken a tremendous effort by the crew to even get this far.
      There may not be humans on-board this time but years in the future someone may end up being saved by lessons learnt in the Hayabusa incident.

      (yes, it does sound star trekkish)
    • by ClayJar ( 126217 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:49PM (#18031420) Homepage
      Basically, the technology to retrieve a satellite from where it is now is likely just as hard as the original mission. Additionally, by the time retrieval would be possible, what would be the point? Technology marches ever on; even if they could retrieve Hayabusa, it's old technology now.

      Additionally, such probes are one-shot devices. The components are built to specs to survive hard solar radiation, exposure to space, and all the extreme temperatures involved. I'd venture to guess they'd have to basically rebuild the satellite almost completely to be able to make another attempt with it. It's cheaper to just start from scratch and include the advances available to you.

      Now, why bother trying to get it home? It's by no means as important as Apollo 13 (in that no lives are depending on it), but to take a probe that's seen better days and get it all the way back home in the face of what appear to be nearly insurmountable odds has quite a bit of sentimental value. For Japan to get Hayabusa home even in such a depleted state, it would be a great honor to their scientists. (And the fact that there's still *some* chance, albeit very small, that there may have been some material captured just makes it that much better.)

      It's the "Incredible Journey" of satellites, or perhaps more apropos, it's the wounded samurai doing everything he can to make it back home before he dies. Very Japanese, and quite a good potential story, too. :)
      • > Additionally, by the time retrieval would be possible, what would be the point?

        I believe it also has a mini lander which never deployed. Surely that's worth a few million and reusable.
      • Exactly. Sometimes you want to do something just to see if you can do it. If we didn't have people with attitudes like that, where would open source software be? A lot of these guys write code just because they want to see if they could do it. Linus is a perfect example. He didn't set out to dominate the world. He set out to see if he could write a UNIX-like kernel -- and he did. This sort of thinking leads to bigger and better things later. In Linus' case, we have a world-class enterprise-ready op
        • Why haven't we sent manned missions to Mars yet? For one, we don't know if we can get the people back.
          I highly doubt that even with that restriction there would be a lack of volunteers, myself one of them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Oliver ( 19269 )
      There is no "parking" orbit in the way you would imagine. The re-entry vehicle will be on a high-speed direct-entry trajectory from its inter-planet course. That is part of the challenge and and a reason to attempt it even if the capsule might be empty.
    • with the probe in space there is little hope of finding out what wen't wrong, back on earth on the other hand.....

      also it sounds like there is the off chance it got its sample so may as well find out
  • Well better late than never as far as Ninja Gaiden 2 goes, I suppose. I was wondering when I should get around to fixing my Xbox 360.
    • It kills the joke, but I feel I must explain the above post that it might be moderated appropriately.

      The star character of Ninja Gaiden is Ryuu Hayabusa. Hence, the joke.
  • Ion Engines (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just sound cool. The Hayabusa is powered by four xenon Ion Engines. It is using xenon ions generated by microwave ECR, and a Carbon / Carbon-composite material for acceleration grid which is resistant to erosion.
  • By chance? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:56PM (#18031506)
    The navigation systems shut down for 13 months, only 2/16 engines work reliably, 2/3 of the wheels failed and pellet gyn failed to fire. Yet they're bringing it back to Earth "in case some asteroid dust had slipped into its collection chamber by chance." Because they're feeling lucky?
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      The navigation systems shut down for 13 months, only 2/16 engines work reliably, 2/3 of the wheels failed and pellet gyn failed to fire. Yet they're bringing it back to Earth "in case some asteroid dust had slipped into its collection chamber by chance." Because they're feeling lucky?

      If that many things break, but you can still drive it back to Earth, then you are certainly "lucky".
    • Because they're feeling lucky?

      They are, now that Google [] has updated its algorithms.
    • Yeah I mean, better to just let that spacecraft wander around the galaxy as a vagabon. Instead of trying to get as much scientific value out of it as possible even with failed components.
    • by ne0n ( 884282 )

      Because they're feeling lucky?
      well do they, punk?
    • "Only 2/16 engines work reliably, 2/3 of the wheels failed"... and its STILL better than anything Detroit makes. Now they're going to try crashing it into a planet to show NASA that they're not the only space agency capable of... crashing something into a planet. Japan was miffed when the European Space Agency got the drop on them last year and slammed something into the moon.
  • Mmm! Hayabusa!

    If you love bikes, and you haven't seen these [], you should.
    Is it wrong that I want one of these?
    • That's the first thing I thought of when I read the headline. I thought it was about someone modifying their Suzuki to fly at those speeds (200+ mph) and then finally getting the landing correct. I guess Hayabusa is a common name in Japan like Mike is here in the US.
    • Turbobusa. If that's wrong, I don't want to be right. I couldn't imagine the rush of that, personally I don't like the big heavy bikes but I'd make an exception for that experience. The first time I threw a leg over an RS125 two-stroke GP bike and did a few track days with a buddy of mine, even the nicest street bikes started feeling clunky and unresponsive. But that boosted Hayabusa would be like nothing else for sheer straight-line velocity.
    • I have an 05' Busa and its hellafun to ride, but the bike doesn't react quickly, and is quite dangerous to ride through traffic.
  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:02PM (#18031596) Homepage
    Aahhh, what an age we live in. Now give me lightsabres and I'll be happy.

    • $8.99 [] I'll see you at the next Star Wars convention my friend. Look for me in the Wookie outfit and a skoal can ring pushing out my right butt fur.
  • Maybe we can get some more usefulness out of the spacecraft still. Crash it into something, the moon, an asteroid, the sun? I'm not really sure if the satellite has enough fuel to do any of those things, but it's worth a try. Better, I think, than returning an empty capsule to Earth.
  • by munrom ( 853142 )
    If this thing comes back inside a large cloud and wants tom kill^H^H^H^H merge with it's creator, I know where to send it :)
  • Heh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Funkcikle ( 630170 ) * on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:30PM (#18032022)
    "My's full of...nothing..."
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      "My's full of...nothing..."

      No, I'll bet they'll find alien spam. Of all the products that humans produce, spam seems to get into more things and go further than anything else. Thus, I expect our First Contact with aliens will be alien mortgage discounts or Ziagra pills.
  • ...but it's thought that a computer error prevented that from happening...

    Maybe they didn't have patch their WINDOWS and got BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death)
    Which is quite funny... cause I've never seen a dedicated computer running Linux which crashed due to Kernel Panic
    Quite a funny thought :]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A Winner Is You!
  • How about spectra? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YGingras ( 605709 ) <> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:13PM (#18032570) Homepage
    They should smash it against a comet. There is nothing to bring back anyway. Why now use it to extract useful spectrum data instead? Especially if they are out of fuel, there will be less noise the organics lines, assuming the standard hydrazine propellant. We already know that ion engines work, what are they trying to show? On the other hand, we know that there are organics in comets but we don't know much more than that. Beside, smashing stuff is always fun.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      They should smash it against a comet. There is nothing to bring back anyway.

      They don't know that yet. Even though they know debri collection gizmo didn't work as planned, there may still be some *residue* debri to analyze due to the bumping motion. Small samples are better than no samples.

      Plus, I don't think it's navigational capabilities are designed for comet aiming. When you are approaching an object in a gradual fashion (such as the original asteroid), you can use images for incrimental course correc
    • They couldn't even if they wanted to because "to hit a bullet with another bullet while watching from a third bullet" [] is hard.
  • by MountainLogic ( 92466 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:20PM (#18032654) Homepage
    IIRC, it is expected to land in Piedmont, Arizona.

    A man with binoculars. That is how it began: with a man standing by the side of the road, on a crest overlooking a small Arizona town, on a winter night. Lieutenant Roger Shawn must have found the binoculars difficult. The metal would be cold, and he would be clumsy in his fur parka and heavy gloves.

  • Hayabusa..... why would one name a spacecraft hayabusa?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by foosalad ( 978345 )
      A Hayabusa is a Japanese bird of prey which attacks other birds by diving at speeds over 200mph into their wings. It seems an appropriate name for a machine designed to land on an asteroid. []
    • by boarsai ( 698361 )

      Hayabusa..... why would one name a spacecraft hayabusa?

      The Hayabusa space craft is not named after the Hayabusa motorcycle but rather what the motorcycle is named after...

      The motorcycles name refers to the the Peregrine Falcon, a bird that flies rather fast.

      As such the spacecraft is well named considering it flies pretty *expletive* fast.

      If anything the spacecrafts name suits better, haven't seen many motor bikes or the like flying past my house recently.

      • by boarsai ( 698361 )

        Hate to reply to myself but I forgot to mention the following:

        The bird has been clocked at up to 390 km/h (242.3mph)... which is the fastest of any animal on the planet see: []

        That speed must be a bit of a rush considering, it'd be just you and the wind :)

        Not only is it the fastest animal in the world... at the time of nameing the motorcycle the Hayabusa was the fastest production and road legal bike you could buy straight off the shop floor (IIRC).

        The Black Bi

      • Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger almost killed himself on a Hayabusa a year ago. Not wearing a helmet.

        I think the Japanese Hayabusa will be in better shape after it crashes, though. :-)

        • by boarsai ( 698361 )

          I think the Japanese Hayabusa will be in better shape after it crashes, though. :-)

          The rear cowling looks like a giant phallus to me - that'd be putting it politely tho.

          Got a GSXR myself, looks half decent and is a hell of a lot more comfortable... altho it still sucks for long trips... but yeah not only is the Hayabusa butt ugly... it looks nothing like it's namesake. :( Shame, it really needs a more aggressive style.

  • Ha. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Assassin bug ( 835070 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:43PM (#18032954) Journal
    2010 is the next solar maximum []! Who wants to place bets that the nav circuits on this thing get scrambled on its way back!?
  • Should have used ZX-14!
  • I can hardly wait to see the desicated corpses of Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck on Entertainment Tonight! ---wait, wrong mission...
  • by 2ms ( 232331 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:48PM (#18034520)
    If you read the timeline of hayabusa's journey it has just been incredible how many things failed. I mean, practically everything imaginable went wrong with this thing. I wouldn't be surprised if their primary purpose in bringing it back was simply to salvage a modicum of dignity. Seriously. They able to upload and download its software. That should be enough to tell a lot about what was wrong with it. I mean, it's not as if they can't tell probably 90% of what they problems were just through data. I'm guessing they're just bringing it back for the sake of at least being able to claim that they got a spacecraft, that was designed to go somewhere and then come back, to actually come back, even if it didn't fulfill any of the purposes for which its coming back was to be useful.
    • by toQDuj ( 806112 )
      Hear hear.

      I think it is a sign of grandeur that even though much has failed (in a series of events that can only be described as a series of bad, bad incidents), they are still not abandoning the project. They started something, and they stick with it.

      Then again, I've always had a weak spot for stories in which broken stuff is brought back to life.

  • Correction (Score:4, Informative)

    by kahrytan ( 913147 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @12:51AM (#18034946)
    Ion Drives are not slow. And Japan is probably most interested in how the drives perform.

    From Deep Space 1;

    The ultimate speed of a spacecraft using ion thrust depends upon how much propellant it carries; indeed, the same principle applies to chemical propulsion systems, although they are much less efficient. The ion propulsion system on Deep Space 1 carries about 81.5 kilograms of xenon propellant, and it takes about 20 months of thrusting to use it all. It increases the speed of the spacecraft by about 4.5 kilometers per second, or about 10,000 miles per hour. If we had the same amount of chemical propellant, it would provide only one tenth as much velocity increment. If DS1 carried a larger solar array, it certainly would have a slightly higher acceleration, and if it carried more Xe propellant it could reach a much higher final velocity by simply thrusting longer. But DS1 is testing ion propulsion solely to find out if it works as well as predicted. Future missions that use it likely will carry more propellant to achieve still higher speeds.
  • space probe malfunctioned millions of dollars wasted beam me up scotty

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