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article imageAsteroid dust collected by Japanese spacecraft returned to Earth

By Igor I. Solar     Nov 17, 2010 in Science
Tokyo - The Government of Japan confirmed that the particles found inside the space capsule "Hayabusa" belong to asteroid Itokawa and are the first samples of this kind coming to Earth. The asteroid dust may provide some clues on the origin of the Solar System.
Yoshiaki Takaki, Japanese Minister of Science and Technology, said that over 1,500 small particles of a diameter of 0,001 milimetres were collected by the Japanese spaceship Hayabusa which landed on asteroid "25143 Itokawa" in 2005.
The capsule Hayabusa (Japanese for Peregrine Falcon) was sent into space in May 2003 to collect samples from Itokawa. The spaceship met Itokawa during November 2005 and studied several characteristics of the asteroid including shape, spin, topography, colour, composition and density. Hayabusa landed on Itokawa and rested on its surface for about 30 minutes which allowed the collection of the asteroid's dust particles. Hayabusa started its return home in 2007 arriving to Earth on 13 June, 2010. The total distance travelled by Hayabusa to and from Itokawa was about 2 billion kilometres and the trip took almost 7 years to complete.
Scientists of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) expect that the analysis of the samples may provide some information from the time of the origin of the Solar system.
Asteroid Itokawa originated about 4,600 million years ago, about the time the Solar System formed. It is located at about 500 million kilometres from Earth.
Orbit of asteroid 25143 Itokawa. Dust samples were collected from this asteroid by a Japanese space ...
Orbit of asteroid 25143 Itokawa. Dust samples were collected from this asteroid by a Japanese space probe and returned to Earth. AU= Astronomical Unit= 149,597,870.7 kilometres.
NASA
During the long journey the ship had several operational problems such as the loss of contact with the base for about three months and a malfunction of its engines. Additionally, the spaceship carried a detachable mini-lander which failed to deploy. For a while scientists doubted that the mission would be successful.
The Hayabusa project had a cost of 130 million dollars and became the first return trip from Earth to an asteroid.
More about Hayabusa, Itokawa, Japan aerospace agency, Asteroid, Solar system
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