Meteorite Monday: Asteroid Itokawa and the Hayabusa probe

Last week Science magazine published six articles about the results of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) mission to asteroid Itokawa. In 2003 they sent a probe, Hayabusa, to gather information about Itokawa and collect soil samples.The poor space probe was plagued by malfunctioning engines, a rogue solar flare that fried computer systems and a mini-probe that failed to operate as it was designed. To JAXA’s credit, they still managed to collect dust from the surface of Itokawa and bring those particles back to earth for us to study.

Thanks to an acquaintance, Michael Barton, I was able to get my hands on one of the reports and I’ve been going through it with the hopes of sharing those results with my readers. Unfortunately, life has been rather hectic lately and I haven’t had the chance to properly read the paper and digest all the information in it.This may seem like a strange story for my Meteorite Monday column, but it makes sense when one considers that meteorites are just chunks of asteroids.

So, my goal for next week is to talk about some of the cool findings of this mission. Until then, you can click on the image to visit JAXA’s site and learn more about the Hayabusa and it’s mission to Itokawa.

Asteroid Itokawa (Image courtesy of JAXA)


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