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Hayabusa Mission to Asteroids

Goals: Japan built Hayabusa to test new technologies, including an ion engine, and to collect the first samples from the surface of an asteroid. It also carried a small 600 gram (1.3 pound) mini-lander named MINERVA, which was designed to hop around the asteroid's surface.

Accomplishments: Hayabusa studied and photographed Itokawa for more than two months. Both Hayabusa and MINERVA experienced complications during landing attempts, Hayabusa landed on the asteroid and sucked a small amount of debris into a sample container. MINERVA probably drifted off into space instead of landing.

The Hayabusa sample capsule returned to Earth and was recovered. Many of the tiny particles recovered from the sample return capsule were identified as pieces of what appears to be a very primitive asteroid. In addition to returning the first samples from the surface of asteroid, Hayabusa also is the first spacecraft to successfully land and take off from the surface of an asteroid.

Key Dates
9 May 2003:  Launch (04:29:25 UT)
Sep 2005:  Arrival at Asteroid Itokawa
13 Jun 2010:  Sample Return to Earth
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Hayabusa Facts Hayabusa means falcon in Japanese.

Asteroid Itokawa is named in honor of Dr. Hideo Itokawa, a founder of Japan's space program.

Hayabusa is the first mission to collect samples from an asteroid.

It was the first spacecraft to successfully land and take off from an asteroid.

The samples, if any were collected, will weigh less than a gram.
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Last Updated: 12 Jan 2015