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Hayabusa Spacecraft Rounds Earth and Heads for Near-Earth Asteroid

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Old May 20th 04, 01:00 AM
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Default Hayabusa Spacecraft Rounds Earth and Heads for Near-Earth Asteroid


Hayabusa Spacecraft Rounds Earth and Heads for Near-Earth Asteroid
Don Yeomans and Paul Chodas
May 19, 2004

At 6:23 am (Greenwich time) on May 19, the Japanese Hayabusa
spacecraft successfully made a close Earth approach
(altitude = 3725 km), thereby gaining the velocity it needs
to reach the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa, named for the
father of Japanese rocketry.

During the Earth swingby, the spacecraft took images of the
Earth and moon to test and calibrate the on board camera
called AMICA (Asteroid Multi-band Imaging Camera). These Earth
and lunar images can be viewed at:


Upon its arrival at the asteroid in the summer of 2005, the
Hayabusa spacecraft will hover near the asteroid's surface for
about four months. Its instruments will study the surface in
detail, determine the asteroid's mass and bulk density and
determine which minerals are present. A small coffee-can-sized
surface hopper, called MINERVA, will leap about the asteroid
taking surface temperature measurements and high-resolution
images with each of its three miniature cameras.

The spacecraft will collect up to three surface samples as its
sample horn captures small pieces of the asteroid ejected when
tantalum pellets are fired into its surface at 300 meters per
second. With these surface samples tucked safely into the
spacecraft's sample capsule, the spacecraft will return to
Earth, arriving on June 10, 2007, and the sample capsule will
parachute to the ground in Australia. The samples will be
analyzed in various laboratories to study their detailed
chemical composition and determine which meteorite examples in
Earth-based collections provide the best match for Itokawa's
particular composition.

Hayabusa, which is Japanese for "falcon", will act much like
its namesake, descending to the asteroid's surface, capturing
its prey and returning it to Earth. While the scientific
knowledge of near-Earth asteroids will be significantly
advanced by the Hayabusa mission, the primary goals are to
test four advanced technology systems: the electric propulsion
(ion drive) engines; an autonomous navigation system; the
sample collection system; and the sample capsule that re-enters
the Earth's atmosphere.

Additional information:

Hayabusa Project (JAXA main site)

SPACE NEWS (ISAS) -- Hayabusa acquired images of the earth and the moon.

Planetary Society:

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