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NASA Space Science

No Samples On Japan's Hayabusa Asteroid Probe 147

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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  • sad news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smivs ( 1197859 ) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:01AM (#32771900) Homepage Journal
    If this is true it is very sad news. This probe had a lot of promise, and it's failure is to be regretted. Let's hope that JAXA is not put off trying other missions of this type...they deserve our support.
  • Not bad, considering (Score:5, Interesting)

    by asukasoryu ( 1804858 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:08AM (#32771984)
    Pretty good for a first try. Based on all other attempts to return physical samples from an extraterrestrial body, I'd say they got pretty close.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:14AM (#32772054)

    I know this is only a minor point, but I cook potatoes occasionally and I've never found them to have a uniform shape. Is this the best descriptive term they could come up with?

  • by Enter the Shoggoth ( 1362079 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:42AM (#32772364)

    As is commonly cited here, everything NASA does screws up because stupid Americans don't use the metric system... if only the Japanese would use it they wouldn't have these prob...

    [hushed whispering] Uh.. it has come to my attention that some people believe Japan uses the metric system. This cannot be possible for 2 reasons: 1. With the metric system there can't be any stupid screwups like what the Americans do. 2. Japanese always have the most badass robots and this is just a space robot, and therefore must work. I stand by my original statement.

    Heh... you think you're only joking but actually it's at least partially true:

    Like many people from outside the USA I used to get extremely frustrated whenever I went to print anything as most software and hardware is defaulted to use US Letter rather than A4.

    Some time later I got a job at a large Japanese company that makes printers and one of the things that really blew me away was that the Japanese have a paper size called A4 which is very slightly different from the A4 paper used by Europe... after that I decided that as much as US Letter pissed me off at least the Americans have the common decency to give their paper a different name.

    Even worse, on a tangential note, I also discovered that the dozen-odd different types of connectors used back in the 90s for SCSI connectors literally doubled overnight at said company because the Japanese have the same dozen or so connectors except that they reverse the gender of all the connections.

    In the end I guess it all comes down to that old saying: "The great thing about standards is that there is so many to choose from"

  • by name_already_taken ( 540581 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:22AM (#32772890)

    "To the public's dismay, JAXA officials said they were not sure whether any samples had been collected."

    That's Japanese for "it didn't work".

    I work in an office where we have periodic dealings with representatives of Japanese industry (actual Japanese people in Japan).I can tell you absolutely that in Japan, if someone says they're "not sure" about whether something happened or is possible, it means "the answer is no".

    "It's very difficult" also means "the answer is no"

    In the Japanese culture, it's bad to say you can't do something, or to admit failure. Silly as it sounds to us westerners, instead of saying outright "no" they use mushy words to avoid losing face.

    There's nothing wrong with that, but you have to understand what they're actually saying when they say things like that.

  • by delinear ( 991444 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:18AM (#32773708)
    Also assuming there is a large enough pool of people who are experienced at building technology to land on and collect samples from comets to replace the current crop with, otherwise you've no guarantee the replacements won't be as bad but without the benefit of real experience.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner