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On This Day in Space! May 9, 2003: Japan launches Hayabusa mission to asteroid

On May 9, 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the first-ever asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa. This was also the first mission to land on an asteroid.

Hayabusa would spend about two years chasing down a near-Earth asteroid called 25143 Itokawa. It then landed on the asteroid, scooped up some samples, and returned to Earth in 2010. Hayabusa may have accomplished its mission, but it was also constantly plagued with technical difficulties.

An artist's illustration of the Hayabusa asteroid-sample return spacecraft at the asteroid Itokawa, a mission by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. (Image credit: JAXA)

The problems started six months after the launch, when a huge solar flare damaged the solar arrays. This reduced the amount of power the solar panels could supply to its ion engines, so it look an extra three months to reach the asteroid.

After finally getting there, Hayabusa tried to drop off a tiny robotic lander called MINERVA, but it drifted off into space without even touching the asteroid. Hayabusa itself made two separate landing attempts, both of which were riddled with problems that put the spacecraft into safe mode. But somehow it still managed to bring some asteroid dust back to Earth.

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  • The Exoplanets Channel
    Very interesting
    Reply
  • Arc Light
    Just so you know, the X-15 took off from Edwards AFB under the wing of a B-52 & was airdropped over Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada. The flight to the altitude record wasn't planned, but the rocket engine burned for two seconds longer than expected. The test flight was scheduled to peak at 280,000', but actually reached 314, 750' due to the extra rocket burn time.
    Reply
  • Fourth Root
    Misleading wording. Bob White did not set the world altitude record on July 17th, 1962. Four Astronauts and two cosmonauts had flown higher prior to his flight. One could say it was the highest manned flight of a winged craft. But that's not the wording that was used.
    Reply
  • DrRaviSharma
    On this date in 1969, I was part of NASA Apollo Team

    Contributed to Experiments in orbit and on Surface of Moon (ALSEP) etc.also trained astronauts

    Studied containation on and ouside Spacecraft.

    The Moon gave me employment to work for 5 Years on exciting Human Space flight Programs Skylab, Planning of Space Station and Space Shuttle

    See My picture taken with Buzz Aldrin in 2009
    https://www.space.com/india-moon-landing-not-a-failure.html
    I received Apollo Achievement Award from NASA dated July 20, 1969.

    Thanks Hanneke Weitering for today's Historic post

    Ravi
    Dr. Ravi Sharma
    Reply
  • Mergatroid
    "Allegedly, the moon turns green because of its close proximity to Uranus"

    I'm sorry about that. I hear they have been investigating x-rays from the same source. I had no idea. I'll get a doctor to check into it.

    Sorry everyone.

    Sorry...
    Reply