By >Akihabara News Team
Hayabusa Space Capsule: News on Reentry
Greeting space buffs in Japan this morning as we woke up was an interesting piece on JAXA’s MUSES-C space probe, affectionately called the Hayabusa (Japanese for peregrine falcon). Hayabusa was launched on May 9, 2003, on a mission to land on, and collect samples from, 25143 Itokawa, an S-type asteroid discovered in 2000 by the LINEAR project and named after Japanese rocket scientist Hideo Itokawa. It was missing in action for three months until a beacon signal was received on the 7th of March, 2006, and four years later finally landed its sample canister in the south Australian outback (its heroic mission detailed in the Japanese tear-jerker documentary Hayabusa: Back to the Earth).
The main spacecraft itself, after having launched its sample canister into reentry, burned up in the upper atmosphere in a blaze of blue light observed by people on the ground, as well as a team of NASA/JAXA/et al scientists onboard a NASA DC-8 airborne laboratory [video]. The news this morning was a report on the observed brightness of the burning reentry of the spacecraft: The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan announced that Hayabusa, which broke up into over 300 pieces in the reentry, had a magnitude of -13 – twice the brightness of the full moon, and over a million times brighter than Polaris!
Scientists hope to use data gleaned from the reentry of the Hayabusa spacecraft to further our understanding of meteors and meteor showers.