This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

14 April 2008

Update on Hayabusa (From Don Yeomans at JPL)

Selections from the article...

Even if Japan's problem-plagued Hayabusa spacecraft makes it back to Earth as planned in 2010, a pointing problem may prevent it from dropping a capsule – which may contain asteroid dust – safely to Earth. Instead, it may send the capsule careening off into space, or hurtling to a fiery death in Earth's atmosphere, mission members say.

Hayabusa was meant to collect samples from the asteroid Itokawa by firing pellets into the surface of the 535-metre-long rock and scooping up the resulting debris. But data from two landings in November 2005 suggest the pellets never fired because the craft's onboard computer sent conflicting signals to its collection instruments.

Still, mission officials hoped to bring the spacecraft back to Earth in case some asteroid dust had slipped into its collection chamber by chance. If it completes the trip, it is expected to drop a capsule in the Australian outback in June 2010.

But even if it makes it back to Earth, the spacecraft might not be able to point itself in the right direction to land the capsule safely, says mission team member Don Yeomans of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US.

"I get the sense from our Japanese colleagues that it's not a sure thing they'll get the capsule back to Australia," Yeomans told New Scientist. That's because Hayabusa is crippled by the loss of fuel used to point itself and of two of its three stabilising gyroscopes, problems that occurred in 2005.

"Crippled probe may send cargo drifting into space"
Elise Kleeman
14 April 2008

Link: NewScientist Article

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