Hayabusa has now returned to Earth as a glowing fireball

Monday, June 14, 2010

Check it out, Hayabusa's back:

A very impressive return for a spacecraft that almost never made it back and was plagued with a whole host of other problems. Though the sample gathering from the asteroid didn't function as planned if we luck out again there will be something in the sample container to analyze.

Some of the comments in Japanese below the video:

For some reason I'm crying, in spite of how short the video is. I think science and art are the most important fields for humans to be human.

Welcome back! You burned up, but that impressive work will live on in space development. Very good work, people from JAXA.

How beautiful. Banzai to Japanese scientists.
The re-entry has been watched very closely, as it's very valuable in understanding how asteroids interact with our atmosphere upon impact. Usually when an object enters the atmosphere we have only a vague notion of what it's made of, but with Hayabusa we know its exact composition, density, angle of impact, velocity etc., and thus this re-entry really is ideal for that.

One interesting idea: why not a mission to launch a number of cheap probes (perhaps three or so) to fly by asteroids somewhat close to Earth, followed by a return to Earth in the same way as Hayabusa. Each probe could be constructed of slightly different material, and each would also return to Earth in a different way due to having different targets. If three or so ideal candidates can be found (and WISE is certainly helping with that, having discovered 12,141 new asteroids so far), then it should be a fairly simple matter.

Edit: wow, this other video of the breakup is just phenomenal. The best part starts at 18 seconds in.

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