Some of the biggest discoveries we make in planetary science rely on the seemingly simple act of picking up and analyzing pieces of other worlds. When things go awry, scientists and engineers can sometimes squeeze amazing science out of a tough situation.
When Hayabusa's sample return capsule was first opened and found to be very clean-looking inside, I doubted that there could be enough material for laboratory analysis. JAXA announced later that they scraped about 1500 dust grains from the inside with a teflon spatula, and these likely came from Itokawa.
I'd been despairing of finding a good source for a writeup of the presentations in the Hayabusa session at last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, but am happy to report that I've finally found an excellent one.
Since I posted an update Monday about JAXA confirming extraterrestrial samples in the Hayabusa sample return capsule, JAXA has posted an English-language version of their press release, which contains a bit more information.
It's official: in a press release today, JAXA announced that some 1,500 dust grains scraped from the interior of Hayabusa's clean-looking sample return capsule are not of terrestrial origin so must be from Itokawa.
Upon James Aldridge's return from Japan, he posted several albums worth of amazing photos, including several of their calligraphy instructor, well-known artist Aiko Tanaka, creating a gestural brush painting to commemorate Hayabusa's return.
Covering the events of Hayabusa's return involved a lot of watching and waiting. Rather than go blind staring at my computer and cause carpal tunnel syndrome by excessively clicking the refresh button, I decided to...go blind and develop carpal tunnel syndrome by doing some crocheting.
Here are a few photos from a Flickr gallery from the Australian Science Media Centre documenting the Hayabusa sample capsule's first step in its journey from Australia to Sagamihara, Japan, where it will arrive on Friday.
Oh my wonderful little flying saucer, you have been to an asteroid and back -- and you were burning like a star last night! And there you are, sitting quietly in the desert, just waiting to be retrieved...