Hayabusa – Retrieved

The re-entry capsule from the Hayabusa mission has been found and begun its trip back to Japan for analysis. The Associated Press reports:

The capsule was airlifted late Monday afternoon to the town of Woomera, where it would be prepared over several days for air freighting to Japan, NASA scientist Scott Sandford said by telephone from the scientists’ base in Woomera.

Sandford said he had not seen the capsule but that photographs indicated it had made a soft desert landing.

Once back in Japan, the capsule will be transferred to a containment lab where it will be opened. It will be a considerable time before the contents are known and analyzed.

Capsule Retrieved
The Re-entry Capsule from Hayabusa.
Image Credit: AP

Capsule Retrieved
The Capsule and Parachute from Hayabusa.
Image Credit: JAXA

If the capsule does contain fragments of the asteroid Itokawa, it would be the first sample from an asteroid. Three other extraterrestrial sources have provided samples. Both the United States and Russia have returned samples from the Moon. The US did it during the Apollo manned lunar program, and the Russians did it using robotic sample and return spacecraft with its Luna program.

The second source came from the American Stardust probe, which was launched on February 7, 1999. It flew past comet Wild 2 on January 2, 2004 and collected samples from the comet’s tail. The capsule re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and landed on January 15, 2006 in Utah’s Great Salt Lake desert.

The third source was the Genesis spacecraft. The United States launched Genesis on August 8, 2001, and crash-landed on September 8, 2004, after sampling the Solar Wind from beyond the orbit of the Moon.

An extended discussion by the BBC can be found in their Science and Environment section.

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One thought on “Hayabusa – Retrieved

  1. Pingback: Hayabusa – The Little Spacecraft That Did. « The National Space Society of Phoenix

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