Japan's Probe Lost in Space, Latest Glitch

From: George Olshevsky (george.olshevsky@gmail.com)
Date: Sun Nov 13 2005 - 12:55:37 EST

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    This item from today's New York Times. Space Track catalogues only two
    objects for this launch, 2003-019A and 2003-019B, neither in earth
    orbit. I guess the upper stage (019B) is long lost in heliocentric
    orbit, while 019A is currently in orbit around the asteroid Itokawa.
    "Minerva" should become 2003-019C, but there may be a couple other
    uncatalogued/undesignated objects from this launch--perhaps hardware
    now in heliocentric orbit associated with orbit insertion and/or
    instrument activation. Would anybody have any info on this?
    Japan's Probe Lost in Space, Latest Glitch
    Published: November 13, 2005
    Filed at 10:52 a.m. ET
    TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's space agency suffered another glitch in its
    mission to collect surface samples from an asteroid and return to
    Earth when a can-sized robot lander apparently became lost in space
    while attempting a practice touch down.
    The rehearsal landing followed an earlier attempt that was aborted due
    to mechanical trouble, but the space agency said it is still targeting
    actual landings on the potato-shaped asteroid Itokawa on Nov. 19 and
    Nov. 25.
    The Hayabusa probe successfully released the Minerva surface-exploring
    robot on Saturday, but Minerva appeared to start drifting away from
    the asteroid's surface, according to a release from JAXA, Japan's
    space agency. Minerva was expected to land and hop around on the
    asteroid's surface collecting data with three small color cameras.
    ''Unfortunately, it appears Minerva did not recognize the surface,'' JAXA said.
    Minerva was still in radio contact with Hayabusa late Saturday, and
    mission controllers were trying to find out more about its condition
    and location, JAXA said. Officials, however, expected the
    transmissions to give out soon, Kyodo News agency reported.
    ''It is very disappointing that it did not work out nicely,'' JAXA
    official Junichiro Kawaguchi was quoted as saying by Kyodo. ''We found
    out various things about the asteroid, so we will study the data and
    hope it will lead to the successful landing of Hayabusa.''
    Another procedure Saturday to collect surface data with laser
    altimeter was largely successful, the agency said.
    JAXA hopes Hayabusa, launched in May 2003, will be the world's first
    two-way trip to an asteroid. A NASA probe collected data for two weeks
    from the Manhattan-sized asteroid Eros in 2001, but did not return
    with samples.
    Hayabusa has until early December before it must leave orbit and begin
    its 290 million kilometer (180 million mile) journey back to Earth. It
    is expected to return to Earth and land in the Australian Outback in
    June 2007.
    The asteroid is named after Hideo Itokawa, the father of rocket
    science in Japan, and is orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. It
    is 690 meters (2,300 feet) long and 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide and
    has a gravitational pull only one-one-hundred-thousandth of Earth's,
    characteristics that make landing a probe there difficult.
    JAXA scrubbed a rehearsal landing earlier this month, when Hayabusa
    had trouble finding a landing spot. The probe had an earlier glitch
    with one of its three gyroscopes.
    Japan was the fourth country to launch a satellite, in 1972, and
    announced earlier this year a major project to send its first
    astronauts into space and set up a base on the moon by 2025.
    Examining asteroid samples is expected to help unlock the secrets of
    how celestial bodies formed because their surfaces are believed to
    have remained relatively unchanged over the eons, unlike those of
    larger bodies such the planets or moons, JAXA said.
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