Hayabusa spacecraft

Hayabusa spacecraft

Courtesy of NASA

http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/enterp/missions/hayabusa/index.shtml



Overview
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency sent this unmanned spacecraft to near-Earth asteroid, 25143 Itokawa. Hayabusa succeeded in collecting a sample of material and bringing it back to Earth for further study.


Launch
May 9, 2003


Arrival
September 12, 2005


End of Mission
June 13, 2010


Goals
Collect a surface sample of material from the small (550 × 180 meter) asteroid, 25143 Itokawa, and return the sample to Earth. Record detailed studies of the asteroid’s shape, spin, topography, color, composition, density, brightness, interior, and history.


Findings
Hayabusa initially surveyed the asteroid’s surface and mapped it from a distance of about 20 km. The craft made two landings in November 2005. This marked the first controlled landing on an asteroid and the first ascent from any other solar system body except the Moon. On April 25, 2007, Hayabusa started its return to Earth.
Hayabusa returned to Earth on June 13, 2010, and the capsule was recovered. Scientists have confirmed that minute particles are in the sample container. Scientists will study these samples for many years to determine the processes of asteroid formation.