Dust-laden Hayabusa returns to Earth

Hayabusa's specimen capsule on the ground in Australia

IN 2005, the Japanese probe Hayabusa made its rendezvous with Itowaka, a five-hundred-meter long asteroid whose circular orbit intersects that of Earth. After a difficult mission plagued with problems, the probe’s specimen return capsule landed safely in the Woomera area of Australia. Yesterday, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency announced that the capsule contained some one hundred particles from Itowaka—the first material gathered from an asteroid and delivered successfully to Earth. The material is described as “more primitive” than terrestrial rocks; we’ll have to wait until next year to learn more.

[image via Space.com]

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