Japanese Space Probe Brings Asteroid Dust Back to Earth
by Pallav Regmi, age 12
The Hayabusa explorer is a Japanese space probe that was launched in 2003. Its goal was to bring back asteroid samples that might provide clues to the evolution of our Solar System.
After a seven-year, four billion-mile journey, the Hayabusa burned in re-entry, creating a fireball just after it threw a heatproof capsule containing the asteroid particles. This mission might represent the first successful attempt to collect dust from an asteroid.
Seiichi Sakamato of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which launched Hayabusa, says officials are delighted to recover the capsule, especially because technical problems had caused a three-year landing delay.
The capsule’s landing site was Woomera Prohibited Area, a remote military zone located 300 miles north of Adelaide, in southern Australia.
The agency stated, "We started the process of opening the sample container of Hayabusa on June 24, 2010, and have confirmed there are minute particles."
The agency still doesn’t know if the dust is from the asteroid, Itokawa, or from Earth. It is possible that the canister may have collected contaminants from Earth before going into space. If it turns out that it is from the asteroid, it could offer a breakthrough in the understanding of our Solar System.
[Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Associated Press; telegraph.co.uk]