Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hayabusa successfully lands, departs asteroid

Pretty cool.

JAXA officials had said on Sunday that the Hayabusa probe, on a mission to briefly land on the asteroid Itokawa, collect material, and then bring it back to Earth, had failed to touch down after maneuvering within yards of the asteroid's surface.

On Wednesday JAXA said that data sent from Hayabusa confirmed that it had actually landed on the asteroid on Sunday for about half an hour. However, the probe failed to collect material, JAXA said.

Before landing, Hayabusa dropped a small object as a touchdown target from 130 feet above the asteroid and then descended to within 56 feet of the surface, at which point ground control lost contact with the probe for about three hours, JAXA officials said earlier.

But after analyzing data later sent by the probe, the agency confirmed that it landed on the asteroid within about 100 feet of the landing target, JAXA said in a statement.