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Space Science

Hayabusa Captured Asteroid Dust Confirmed 60

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. [] Unless you don't consider comets "celestial objects."

    • by rossdee ( 243626 )

      And bits of comets and bits of asteroids hit the earth sometimes without us needing to go out into space to get them.

      • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
        True, but the subject is about us heading out there or sending something with the intent of bringing space debris back. Hopefully, those objects get back without Earth atmospheric and substance contamination - unlike a comet.
      • The tricky part is how should I recognize them among all the dust on the floor of my room.
    • Does this mean that meteorites are not celestial objects?

      Just cause we don't have to go out into a vaccum to collect stuff from them does not mean they cease being celestial in nature right? Right?

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )

          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.

          • Besides, every atom of the Earth was part of a celestial object at some point in the past.

            Nigh, it IS a celestial object; just not to us because we are still on it. To the inhabitants of Mars, our planet is a faraway and mystic place.

          • From the Moon, or a moon of an as-yet-undetected planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, or $extrasolar-planet-of-your-choice, every particle of every planet of the solar system they can detect is a celestial object. Stop being so parochial. Everyone.
      • Wrong. Read the sentence again: "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)." The key phrases here are "has been collected" and "has been returned", which implies that human activity brought these samples to Earth, rather than natural events.

        We're not talking about things falling to earth, we're talking about human missions in space bringing objects

        • I did read it again as you suggested. However, if you read it again, you'll note that there is absolutely no mention of going into space to do the collection. For that matter, there is also no mention about where the stuff is returned to.

          If it said 'collected from the surface of an asteroid in space' and 'returned to Earth', I'd be forced to follow their train of thought.

          Good writing and reporting is not about letting people draw their own interpretation of the facts. There should be no room for alternat

          • Good writing and reporting is not about letting people draw their own interpretation of the facts. There should be no room for alternate extrapolations. That was my point.

            Your point is useless. Everyone knows that "journalism" is a joke these days, and that journalists can't even write as well as a typical 5th grader. Pointing this out on Slashdot isn't really adding anything to the discussion.

            Heck, my local newspaper (AZ Republic) doesn't even bother to do any editing themselves, they've outsourced it to

            • Useless or not, there's no real harm in trying. I still have some hope left in my heart for humanity.

              Furthermore, I believe in the idea that one person (me!) could effect a wave of change. I'll have to hit the right spot, but I don't know what that is. Have to keep pecking away at it all till something works. :)

              I see your point though, and it's true not just with AZR, but with a huge and growing number of papers around the world. Sad!

              • Around the world? I thought this phenomenon was confined to America, but I don't know because I don't read much foreign journalism, except BBC once in a while and it usually seems far superior to anything in the USA.

                But having hope for humanity is different from having hope for the journalism industry. Journalism is going down the tubes, like it or not, and there isn't much that can be done about it. However, have hope: while the big media companies are in their death throes, there are new independent jo

    • by NoSig ( 1919688 )
      Then we could also consider Earth itself to be celestial since all the matter that makes it up used to be something else, and all of it came from space before it became Earth. The meaning is clear: something collected from space by us and then shielded from being altered when brought back to Earth, such as by not allowing it to come into contact with our atmosphere.
    • The last time I looked, Pluto was a planet and comets were "celestial" bodies...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cupofjoe ( 727361 )

      Uhh, don't forget Genesis: []

      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.


  • 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.

    • I believe that the manned US missions to the Moon and the automated Soviet spacecraft Luna 16, Luna 20, and Luna 24 all brought lunar samples back to Earth - but who's counting?

  • It's sad.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by angiasaa ( 758006 )

    No one named an asteroid "Pixie". That would have been so cool! :)

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      Get yourself a telescope, find one, and you can pretty much name it as you please.

      • Well, Not much fun even then.. Not unless someone brings dust back from it anyway.

        Or would you suggest I get myself a space rocket, a remotely operated grapple or rover and hire ground-control too?

        It was a joke. But looks like most everybody either did'nt get it, or did'nt see it. :(

  • The Dust (Score:3, Funny)

    by Narpak ( 961733 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @10:39AM (#34241632)
    Alien Dust acquired; check.
    Scientists analyzing it in labs; check.
    Cue horrific mutating space monsters.
    • And they thought Godzilla was just some stupid movies... the fools.
      • by fishexe ( 168879 )

        And they thought Godzilla was just some stupid movies... the fools.

        You would think the Japanese of all people would want to heed the warning.

  • "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? []
    So I hope "the Moon missions" includes the Russians, not just Apollo? Yes? Spaceeba!

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @10:50AM (#34241784)

    Bravo. Now, do it again !

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @10:57AM (#34241864) Journal
    Lucky break they got, recovering the capsule themselves. Imagine what would have happened if some country bumpkin comes across the capsule and decides to find out what is inside by drilling a hole. Do we really have a six level underground containment facility for that eventuality?
    • Lucky break they got, recovering the capsule themselves.

      That kind of stuff is usually figured out pretty easily logistically. There's really only a small window where re-entry can be done with enough safety to preserve whatever it is you're bringing back. So you know the weight - and the speed it's currently at - and you use that to calculate the angle for re-entry and then its a simple high school physics problem to find out where it'll land.

  • by mdm42 ( 244204 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @11:03AM (#34241938) Homepage Journal

    After all the travails and troubles [] this mission has encountered, actually recovering comet dust is - at last - cosmic justice.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In other news JAXA has released a new image of the returning spacecraft that clearly shows the damage it took: []

  • This successful mission conclusion is of critical importance to not only science but also the well-being of our civilization.
    Hayabusa has proven that we can send a probe to an asteroid, dock with it, overcome all the odds and return a sample of dust back to Earth. On a global scale, our understanding of asteroids has just been enhanced, helping us better understand these potentially hazardous space rocks, ultimately aiding our ability to deal with them should a "big one" be aimed right at us.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )

      No, someone has been examining the fossil record and realised that this kind of thing happens all the time.

  • I can't help but imagine a guy in a spacesuit riding a motorcycle into space when I see headlines about this mission. Good name.
  • by gpronger ( 1142181 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @11:48AM (#34242540) Journal
    To me, the most important aspect of the satellite was more of a demonstration of capability. It was able to overcome significant problems (damage to solar panels, etc) and complete its mission. Much of future utilization of space will likely be via robotic and remote systems. As a initial effort in this direction, it was impressively successful, not as much in what it accomplished, but more in what it overcame.
    • I agree. The whole mission having success despite all problems is itself a great feat to Hayabusa enginners and technicians. I hope NASA and others space agencys uses the lessons too to make future probes capable of go around all problems and odds like Hayabusa.
  • 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.
  • I really, really want to make another Ninja Gaiden joke, but after all the stories about this spacecraft I just don't have another one in me. Sorry, Slashdot. I have failed you.
  • the dust (Score:2, Informative)

    by jpkeating ( 652833 )
    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).

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.