The Japanese space agencies mission to collect samples from an asteroid and return them to Earth has suffered another setback. The Hayabusa probe
successfully released the Minerva surface-exploring robot on Saturday, but shortly after Minerva appeared to drift away from surface of the asteroid.
JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) still believe they can successfully land the robot and return it to Earth in 2007. If successful this mission will be the
first ever to return a sample from an asteroid.
"Unfortunately, it appears Minerva did not recognize the surface,'' JAXA said.
Minerva was still in radio contact with Hayabusa late Saturday, and mission controllers were trying to find out more about its condition and location,
JAXA said. Officials, however, expected the transmissions to give out soon, Kyodo News agency reported.
"It is very disappointing that it did not work out nicely,'' JAXA official Junichiro Kawaguchi was quoted as saying by Kyodo. "We found out
various things about the asteroid, so we will study the data and hope it will lead to the successful landing of Hayabusa.''
Another procedure Saturday to collect surface data with laser altimeter was largely successful, the agency said.
JAXA hopes Hayabusa, launched in May 2003, will be the world's first two-way trip to an asteroid. A NASA probe collected data for two weeks from the
Manhattan-sized asteroid Eros in 2001, but did not return with samples.
Hayabusa has until early December before it must leave orbit and begin its 290 million kilometer (180 million mile) journey back to Earth. It is
expected to return to Earth and land in the Australian Outback in June 2007.
The asteroid is named after Hideo Itokawa, the father of rocket science in Japan, and is orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. It is 690 meters
(2,300 feet) long and 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide and has a gravitational pull only one-one-hundred-thousandth of Earth's, characteristics that make
landing a probe there difficult.
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It would be such a shame if JAXA's probe and lander were unsuccessful.
The Japanese are coming on leaps and bounds with their space program, and this will be a major boost in confidence for them if it is successful.
Japan has plans to construct a Moon base by 2025, if this mission is a success i dont see any reason why their Moon base shouldnt happen!
[edit on 14/11/2005 by MickeyDee]