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Photos From Hayabusa: Japan's Asteroid Mission

The Satellite


Photos from Japan's beleaguered asteroid mission Hayabusa to visit the asteroid Itokawa and collect samples to be returned to Earth. Japanese asteroid probe, Hayabusa, performed a spectacular set of duties at asteroid Itokawa.

Space Rock


Named 25143 Itokawa, this asteroid is some 540 meters by 270 meters by 210 meters. Japan's robotic Hayabusa spacecraft rendezvoused with asteroid Itokawa in mid-September 2005 and studied the space rock's shape, spin, topography, color, composition, densi

Return to Sender

C. Waste and T. Thompson (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Earth return of Japan's Hayabusa asteroid probe and release of its sample capsule.

I'm Gonna Getcha

JAXA/ISAS/Hitoshi Kuninaka

Japan's ion engine-propelled Hayabusa probe has reached its scientific prey: asteroid Itokawa. The spacecraft is loaded with technology, including sample return tools to snag and bag specimens of the object for transport back to Earth.

Touch Me

Space Robotics Lab/Tohoku University

Artist's concept of Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft touching down on the asteroid to start sampling operations.


Akihiro Ikeshita/JAXA.

An artist's concept of Japan's Hayabusa landing on the asteroid Itokawa.

The Shadow


Asteroid Itokawa's image captured November 20 by Japan's Hayabusa probe. Note shadow of spacecraft as it maneuvered to a close encounter with the space rock.

Circles and Arrows


A close-up on one of the various spots the Hayabusa probe is surveying on the asteroid Itokawa for a prospective landing site.

Get Closer


Japan's Hayabusa space probe has drawn closer to its celestial target: asteroid Itokawa. The spacecraft is being prepared for touchdown this month on the space rock, picking up specimens for return to Earth, and deploying a small lander that can hop from

On the Surface


Getting down and dirty is the plan for Japan's Hayabusa asteroid probe. Imagery taken by the spacecraft shows the terrain of asteroid Itokawa in preparation for sampling of the space rock.

This Must Be the Place


A target marker dropped by Hayabusa (a bright spot) can be seen on the surface of asteroid Itokawa. Spacecraft shadow is cast upon the space rock.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.