Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hayabusa Returns to Earth Sunday!

Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft will rocket back to Earth on Sunday after a 7 year mission that makes it the first spacecraft to land on a celestial object (other than the Moon) and return home. JAXA hopes that the probe is carrying samples from the asteroid 25143 Itokawa.

In 2006, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Stardust spacecraft returned to Earth after collecting samples from the coma of the comet Wild 2. But in that case, the spacecraft never touched down on the comet.

NASA scientists have gone to Australia to study the reentry of Hayabusa as it careens into that atmosphere at over 7 miles per second.

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