Hayabusa Arrives at Itokawa, Starts Hovering Operations
14 Sep 2005
(Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)
The Hayabusa spacecraft successfully arrived at its target, the near Earth asteroid Itokawa (25143), at 01:00 UTC(10:00 JST) on September 12th. Hayabusa performed a short chemical thruster burn to slow its asteroid-relative speed by 7 centimeters per second to settle into the Gate Position, defined at a distance of 20 kilometers from Itokawa towards the Earth. Hayabusa is now hovering with respect to Itokawa and the project has made a great step toward its scientific observations of the asteroid. Hayabusa's main purpose is to demonstrate key technologies required for future planetary exploration. Hayabusa was launched in May 2003. In May 2004, the spacecraft performed an Earth gravity assist while using ion engine propulsion, this was the first time a spacecraft has flown such a powered flyby.
During its approach to rendezvous, the visible imager carried by Hayabusa succeeded in taking multi-band filter photographs of Itokawa, as the asteroid rotated. This press release contains the resulting synthesized pseudo-color image and a series of rotation pictures of Itokawa. In the images, sunlight illuminates the asteroid from behind the camera, making the terrain features appear more subdued. Most of the key images obtained by the mission to date are available on the JAXA main web-site (http://www.jaxa.jp) and the ISAS (Institute of Space and Astronautical Science) main web-site ( http://www.isas.jaxa.jp ).
The Hayabusa spacecraft is in good health and all its scientific instruments (consisting of a visible imager, a near infra-red and X-ray spectrometer and a laser altimeter) are functioning normally and have started their calibration observations. Hayabusa will stay at the asteroid until the end of November and plans to perform detailed remote sensing and mapping of the asteroid, followed by an attempt to collect surface samples of Itokawa. The project goals are then to return the sample back to Earth in 2007. Updated information and future press releases about the mission will be available at the JAXA and ISAS web-sites.
The Hayabusa project is a collaborative mission with participation by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States. The Hayabusa project expresses its appreciation to NASA for its support of the mission.