Monday, November 14, 2005

Moonwalk

The Japanese mission to the asteroid Itokawa has met with partial success . The main spacecraft, Hayabusa managed to come within 70 meters of the asteroid's surface and release a foot-tall lander named Minerva. However, this approach was actually closer than had been intended, and the command to release Minerva came at a time that Hayabusa was rocketing away from the asteroid surface. So Minerva is basically lost in space.

Haybusa itself will try to land on the asteroid and return samples to earth. Several features, like a laser range-finder, worked well during this approach, so the mission might still yield samples.

A description of Minerva, which sounds a lot like a grasshopper, and of some results to date is over at Instrumentation News .

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