Sunday, June 13, 2010

HAYABUSA returns

Asteroid Explorer "HAYABUSA"(MUSES-C) detached the capsule with the rock samples around 7:51 p.m. Japan time. The capsule will make its re-entry into the atmosphere around 10:51 p.m. Japan time and land in the Woomera desert in Australia around 11:00 p.m. Japan time.
Hayabusa will burn up after it enters the atmosphere.

Hayabusa was launched on a mission to collect and bring back rock samples from Asteroid Itokawa in May, 2003.
It arrived at Itokawa in September, 2005.
Fuel leakage from the auxiliary engine occurred as it performed the second touch down on Itokawa, and the leakage made trouble to its attitude control system. It lost communication with the earth. One and a half months later, it made a miraculous communication recovery and succeeded in resuming operation. However, the 4-year mission was extended by 3 years due to that trouble, and its extension caused another trouble.

All of four ion engines broke down in November, 2009.
Ion engines are less powerful but more energy-efficient than chemical propulsion engines. The mission also included testing the capability of the ion engine. The engines were past their estimated service life due to the extended mission.

Hayabusa resumed its journey to the earth by combining two partially working ion engines. A part in case of engine trouble worked for Hayabusa's return. Despite the two engines were ignited without prior testing with the part.

And now, Hayabusa is coming back to the earth. Hayabusa means a falcon in Japanese.
Hayabusa is treated like a boy, so it's called "Hayabusa-kun".
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is providing information about him on its website. He often sent out his precise location to Twitter. The site has received a lot of messages cheering him. We can see his return on the Internet.

Welcome back, and good bye, Hayabusa-kun.

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