Thursday, November 03, 2005

Japan's Hayabusa Probe Closes in on Asteroid Landing Site

Image source: / JAXA / ISAS

Leonard David writes in

Stunning imagery is being returned by Japan’s Hayabusa space probe as it draws closer to its celestial target: asteroid Itokawa.

Now just a few miles distant from the space rock, the spacecraft is poised for an historic attempt to collect and return a specimen to Earth from such an object. Imagery from Hayabusa is being used by Japanese scientists to target potential touchdown sites on the rocky world.

Hayabusa was rocketed into space from Japan’s Kagoshima Space Center on May 9, 2003 and is a project of that country’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), a space science research division arm of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Hayabusa arrived at its exploration target, near Earth asteroid Itokawa, on September 12, propelled there via ion engines and an Earth swing-by to put the probe on a heading toward Itokawa.


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