Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Hayabusa Falls to Earth
Hayabusa, the little spacecraft that could, returned to earth on Sunday June 13. I've been following Hayabusa for some time, so it was a bit disappointing I forgot about its re-entry, but we were off bushwalking so I was distracted. The spacecraft itself was destroyed in the re-entry (and captured in the spectacular video below), but the asteroid sample return capsule was successfully retrieved and appears to be intact.
Whether there is any asteroidal material in the sampler is unknown, the projectile that was supposed to kick up material to be sampled didn't work, but asteroids are fairly dusty things, and the simple impact of the sampler tube make have captured some material. It will be a while before we know.
Emily Lakdawalla has a good rundown of the return (with fantastic images) and further updates. Hat tip to the Bad Astronomer.