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SpaceVidcast SpacePod 22.6.10

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Hayabusa returns to Earth after a spectacular journey of triumphs and failures on your SpacePod for June 22nd, 2010. Last week JAXA had a huge success in safely landing its Hayabusa craft in Australia. But before we go in to that, lets back up and talk a bit about what Hayabusa is and how we got to this point. On May 9th, 2003 at 4:23 UTC the Japanese solid fueled rocket M-5 launched from the Uchinoura Space Center. Aboard was a little spacecraft designed to do something no other vehicle had done before. It would approach an asteroid, hover, take a sample and return the sample safely to Earth. Hayabusa would not land but rather touch the surface with its sample capturing device and then move away, so we're not to call it a lander. Four ion engines, which are absolutely awesome, kept the petal to the metal for 2 years straight and in 2005 the craft rendezvoused with the asteroid Itokawa. That asteriod was actually not its initial target. Originally Hayabusa was supposed to land on the asteroid 4660 Nereus, but a faulty M-5 rocket forced a delay which pushed the asteroid out of our reach. But that's not where the trouble started or ended. Even prior to the launch there were some problems. The non-lander was to deploy a small rover designed by NASA and developed by JPL on to the surface of the asteroid, but was canceled due to budget reasons. Minus 2 points US. Then in 2002 JAXA needed to re-check the O-rings of their rocket as it was found to be made of a different material than was specified, and thus the launch was pushed back to 2003. Finally after it did take off, the Hayabusa spacecraft got slammed with a large solar flare which in turn damaged the solar cells and greatly reduced their efficiency. This impacted the ion engines performance and delayed the arrival of the craft from June to September of 2005. Now, finally Hayabusa makes it to the asteroid and begins its scientific work. The first thing our little spacecraft does is survey the asteroid from a distance of around 20 kilometers. Once it was satisfied with its sample site it would move closer and finally swoop in for a series of soft landings and a collection of samples. Originally there were to be two sample sites, but when the second site was found to be too rocky, it was reduced to one. There was also supposed to be the release of a MINERVA miniprobe to take pictures of the surface and beam them back to the spacecraft. While the probe was released, it was done too high and the gravity of the asteroid was not enough to pull it back down. The miniprobe is now forever lost in space. And to sum up some more issues, a loss of signal and some confusion in the control room led to the non-lander turning in to a full fledged lander when Hayabusa actually touched down and stayed on the surface of the asteroid for 30 minutes. Then there was an issue with the reaction control system then a problem with controlling the Z-axis of the vehicle. Follow that up with a sudden altitude change and a loss of signal from the spacecraft followed by... well... a lot of silence. Finally communication was restored and it was time for Hayabusa to come home. At this point was have a fairly crippled vehicle. Only 2 of the 4 ion engines are running, power is damaged, we have issues with communication oh, yeah and control too. Nevertheless on Jun 13th, 2010 at 13:51 UTC, the Hayabusa spacecraft re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and NASA captured these stunning images! The recovery part of the craft is actually the bright light in the lower right, not the part that's breaking apart as the vehicle slammed into our atmosphere at 25 G and withstood heat about 30 times that of the re-entry of an Apollo spacecraft. Now that Hayabusa is back with us, its been recovered but not yet opened. Samples on the ground next to the landing site have been taken for analysis to ensure that the contents of the craft have not been contaminated. It will be several weeks before sample canisters are opened and checked for contamination as they go through X-rays and scientific testing and stuff like that. Until then we've saved what I think is the coolest video for last. This is amateur video of the re-entry. Now watch as the speck of light gets brighter and brighter until it lights up the sky and the clouds and then fades right back into darkness. This is pretty cool! More at http://www.spacevidcast.com

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 20 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Benjamin Higginbotham
Director: Benjamin Higginbotham
Views: 78
Posted by: spacevidcaster on Jul 2, 2010

Last week JAXA had a huge success in safely landing its Hayabusa craft in Australia.

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