Spacecraft Hayabusa's return to the Earth

Last night, Japanese netizens were filled with excitement watching Japanese spacecraft "Hayabusa" return from its 7 years mission to explore asteroid "Itokawa". Hayabusa's trip was not easy- it lost communications with the earth, had various technical problems. But the Japanese scientists had overcome such difficulties and brought Hayabusa back home, which was bound to explode entering the earth's aerospace to bring back a capsule containing a sample of Itokawa and land in Australia.

If the capsule indeed carries a sample of astroid, it will be a big scientific success as it will have precious clues to understand the origin and evolution of the Solar System.

(photo:JAXA Hayabusa Mission press kit)

Asteroid Itokawa

(photo:JAXA Hayabusa Mission press kit)

Although this mission demonstrates an excellent example of how Japanese scientists had overcome difficulties and achieved a world class success, none of the TV stations reported this live - yes, they were reporting world cup- and people watched live streams from Ustream and NicoNicoDouga and shared their excitement on Twitter.

This is an archive of Ustream by Wakayama University.

Screenshot of Hayabusa's re-entry and turning into firebolt


Control room was Ustreamed as well, with over 63,000 viewers

Video of the re-entry taken by NASA

As you can imagine, people were tweeting heavily about Hayabusa, and Hayabusa was tweeting too. "Hi everyone, I'm home" tweet by Hayabusa.

Hayabusa was shooting photos before its re-entry to the earth's atmosphere- see how lower part of the photo has lots of noise- it entered the earth's atmosphere before finishing the data transmission...

(c)Jaxa on Twitpic

You can see how Japanese netizens loved Hayabusa- Hayabusa cosplay of a girl with Itokawa at Make Tokyo Meeting 05.

Make Tokyo Meeting 05

Google Japan's doodle was Hayabusa

A figure characterizing Hayabusa is going to be on sale.


Overview on HAYABUSA from JAXA's website:
May 9, 2003 Launched by the M-V-5 Rocket from Kagoshima Space Center.
May 27, 2003 Ion Engine operation started.
May 19, 2004 Orbit transfer using the Electric Propelled Delta-V Earth Gravity Assist
July 29, 2005 Performed the Star Tracker imaging of Itokawa.
September 12, 2005 Arrived at Itokawa. (about 20km away)
September 30, 2005 Arrived at the Home Position (about 7km away).
November 12, 2005 Released the probing robot ”Minerva”.
November 20, 2005 Performed the first touch down and release of the target marker with 880,000 autographs inside.
November 26, 2005 Performed the second touchdown.
December 8, 2005 Lost communication with the earth due to operation rupture by fuel leakage.
January 26, 2006 Resumed communication and operation.
January 18, 2007 Sample-catcher was actually transferred into the recovery capsule, and latched and sealed.
February, 2007 The ion engines ignited and operated again.
April 25, 2007 The homeward journey with an ion engine drive was started.
October 18, 2007 Finished first phase orbit maneuver toward Earth.
End of May, 2008 Reached the farthest deep space from the Earth.
February 4, 2009 Firing ion engine and starting second phase orbit maneuver to return to Earth.
November 4, 2009 Ion engine anomaly.
November 19, 2009 Resumed cruise by combining two partially working ion engines.
March 27, 2010 Finished second phase orbit maneuver toward Earth.
April to June, 2010 Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TCMs)
June, 2010 Back to the Earth , capsule recovered.