In its orbit around the Sun, the Red Planet has been returning
to where it was when the Mars Exploration Rovers first
landed back in January
2004, and, as the twin robot field geologists are marking the milestone
of their first Martian year -- equivalent to almost two Earth years --
fireworks are flashing all around the planet. Although the cause of the
fireworks is actually debris from Halley's comet, through which Mars is
currently passing, the timing seems so metaphorically appropriate.
If I understand the various sources(and my somewhat vague memory) correctly, it now appears that Earth has rotated far enough to take the Deep Space Network station at Goldstone, through which Hayabusa has been transmitting, out of line with Hayabusa.
Hayabusa reached an altitude of about 560 meters above Hayabusa at 17:30 UTC. And at 18:00 UTC they are at 500 meters. This is still farther above the asteroid than the asteroid is big...there is still a long way to go before Hayabusa touches down...
In a further update on Hayabusa's status, we have been contacted by Kazuya Yoshida of the Space Robotics Laboratory at Tohuku University. Yoshida reports that the touchdown is now planned to take place "in early morning of November 20 (Sunday) JST", which would make it late Saturday evening UTC, or Saturday midday here in California.
While I was at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Cambridge in September I had a chance to chat with David Atkinson, who's a member of the Doppler Wind Experiment team on Huygens. They and the other instrument teams have been plugging away at analyzing their data.