Monday, June 14, 2010

Witness the fiery re-entry of the HAYABUSA probe over Australia

Remember when the Mir space station came crashing and burning out of the sky nine years ago? I was watching that on TV and among friends we jokingly quoted Kirk's line from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: "My God Bones. What have I done?"

Well, this ain't the flaming destruction of a space vessel for once. This is the atmospheric re-entry of the HAYABUSA Asteroid Explorer mission, videoed from a NASA DC-8 over Australia. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched HAYABUSA in 2003. A few years later it landed on the asteroid Itokawa. Then HAYABUSA scooped up some samples and made the five-year journey back to Earth, using a high-tech ion engine to return its precious cargo.

The capsule containing the asteroid samples has been located at its calculated arrival point in western Australia (gotta love mathematics aye?). And soon the asteroid rocks and dust will be in laboratories undergoing analysis.

That is about as successful a space mission as I have ever heard of in any recent memory. Congrats to JAXA and the HAYABUSA crew on a job well done!