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Japanese spacecraft set to attempt asteroid sample grab

19 Feb 2019, 16:03 UTC
Japanese spacecraft set to attempt asteroid sample grab
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

There is a scene in the film Hayabusa (2011) that brilliantly gives the audience a tantalizing first-hand experience of a space mission. It’s 20 November 2005 and the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa (which means peregrine falcon) is attempting to touch down and grab a sample from the asteroid Itokawa. As strings play gently in the background, film director Yukihiko Tsutsumi keeps cutting smoothly between shots of the slow descent of Hayabusa towards the asteroid’s surface, and the intense concentration of scientists and engineers gathered around monitors in mission control.
Then something goes wrong, and the strings are replaced by a low, pulsing synthesizer. And now the director cruelly stops cutting back to show us what is happening with the spacecraft. Instead — frustratingly, maddeningly — we are trapped on earth with the mission control team, 180 million miles from Itokawa, and desperate to know what is happening.
Hayabusa2, a follow-up to that dramatic first Hayabusa mission launched by the Japanese space agency, JAXA, is now about to attempt to collect a rock sample from the asteroid Ryugu. In a show of country-wide excitement normally reserved for a big game in the World Cup, Japan will hold its collective breath on Friday ...

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