Return Of The Dustbuster From Outer Space

******************************UPDATE******************************

Touchdown, the crowd goes wild!

Space Probe Returns After 7-Year Asteroid Voyage

A Japanese space probe landed in the Australian outback on Monday after a 7-year voyage to an asteroid, lighting up the night sky and bringing what scientists hope is a rock sample, witnesses said.

The Hayabusa probe blazed a spectacular trail as it came in to hit the ground at a blistering speed, ending a journey to the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa that began in 2003.

An Australian defense spokesman told Reuters scientists monitoring the probe’s return had confirmed it had landed and identified its location, but it would not be retrieved until daylight. Only then would it become clear if a capsule thought to contain the precious sample was intact.

See also:
Space probe returns to Earth from trip to asteroid
Japan’s ‘Falcon’ Returns After Seven-Year Asteroid Mission
Probe returns to Earth after asteroid landing
NASA Aircraft Videos Hayabusa Re-Entry
Hayabusa completes fiery return to Earth
Mission Accomplished For Japan’s Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa

/now we just need to find out exactly what, if anything, Hayabusa brought back

******************************END UPDATE******************************

A long time ago, in a country far far away, the Japanese sent a spacecraft . . .

to land on an asteroid that looks like a giant space turd . . .

and bring back some dirt.

Japanese Probe Set to Land in Australian Outback Sunday, Returning First Asteroid Sample to Earth

A Japanese meteor-investigator probe will become a meteor itself when it returns to Earth over the weekend. The Hayabusa probe is screaming toward Earth at asteroid speed,
according to scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Scientists hope it is carrying samples obtained from a 2005 visit to the small asteroid Itokawa.

The probe’s sample-return capsule will separate from the main probe and reenter the atmosphere at 7.58 miles per second early Sunday. Scientists from NASA, the Japanese Space Agency and other organizations are planning to watch its fiery descent to learn more about how objects behave and break up during high-speed reentry.

When Hayabusa (“falcon” in Japanese) reaches an altitude of 190,000 feet, its heat shield will reach temperatures of more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the gas surrounding the capsule will reach 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun, NASA says. It is planned to fall over a large unpopulated area of Australia called the Woomera Prohibited Area.

There’s no guarantee of success — actually, scientists don’t even know if Hayabusa is carrying anything. The craft has been plagued with problems for five years.

It made two touchdowns on Itokawa in 2005 to collect rocks and soil, but apparently failed to fire a metal bullet designed to dislodge the samples. Then, a fuel leak left its chemical propellant tanks empty, so engineers had to use Hayabusa’s ion engines to guide it home. Still, Hayabusa was the first spacecraft to land on a celestial object other than the moon and take off again.

See also:
Japan’s “Falcon” Spacecraft Returns—Asteroid Dust On Board?
Japan’s Asteroid Mission Set For Fiery Re-entry Over Australia
Japan Itokawa asteroid mission set for re-entry
Asteroid spacecraft makes its way back to Earth
Japanese space probe returns home Sunday
Japan asteroid probe to make historic return to Earth
Hayabusa just hours from home
Scientists wait in Outback for Japanese spacecraft
Japan’s ‘Falcon’ Set to Land After Seven-Year Asteroid Mission
Ames Research Center
Ames Research Center
JAXA | Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Hayabusa
Hayabusa

Well, I wish JAXA luck and hope they retrieve lots of asteroid dirt to play with. Otherwise, it’ll be a lot like Geraldo opening Al Capone’s vault.

/let’s all hope Hayabusa didn’t pick up any cosmic hitchhikers like in The Andromeda Strain

Missed Us By That Much

Asteroid smashes into atmosphere

AN asteroid exploded over Indonesia with the force of three Hiroshima bombs – and no one on Earth knew it was coming.

The New Scientist website reports the dramatic explosion over South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on October 8 underscores how blind humanity is to the danger of giant space rocks.

NASA estimated the explosion was the equivalent to 50,000 tons of TNT, making it one of the largest asteroid explosions ever observed.

However, this time we were lucky – the blast caused no damage on the ground because it occurred at high altitude, 15 to 20km above Earth’s surface.

While the explosion was heard by witnesses in Indonesia and picked up by international nuclear explosion detectors, the asteroid only became visible after it exploded.

See also:
Asteroid blast reveals holes in Earth’s defences
Asteroid explosion over Indonesia raises fears about Earth’s defences
Meteor hits above Indonesia
Cosmic Blast Rattles Indonesia
Asteroid Impactor Reported over Indonesia
Blast in Bone a result of falling meteorite: Experts
Air explosion hits Bone, South Sulawesi
Mysterious Explosion Panics Locals in South Sulawesi, Police Still Investigating
Indonesia police investigate Sulawesi explosion
Police investigate Indonesia blast

Events like this are humbling and put the fragility of life in perspective.

/it’s just a matter of time, one of these days, sooner or later, we won’t be so lucky