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Emily LakdawallaNovember 29, 2005

Thruster trouble for Hayabusa

Hayabusa has been riding an incredible wave of luck lately, resulting in the dramatic success of the sample grab last week. But it looks as though Hayabusa's luck may be running out. The spacecraft is currently in safe mode under spin stabilization, and JAXA controllers are having trouble regaining control. This information is from a press conference that was held today, as reported in the weblog of Shin-Ya Matsuura and translated by visitor "nao". Here are the high points (follow the link for much more detail):

Recovery of Hayabusa will depend upon help from NASA's Deep Space Network, and Kawaguchi was talking about needing help from the biggest of NASA's dishes, the 70-meter stations. These are generally used for communications with the terribly distant Voyagers and for the massive amounts of data coming in from Cassini. I know that Cassini planners do develop contingencies for how to deal with lost communications sessions, planning backup sessions so that they still have a chance to transmit critical data from Saturn if they lose one of their DSN times. Still, Hayabusa could play a little havoc with Cassini over the next couple of weeks.

I also found this one other question-and-answer from the press conference to be notable:

[reporter] Jiji Tsushin: Did you get congratulations for success in landing from NASA?

Kawaguchi: We get many from all of the world. But we are now confused about what to answer under such situation.

They have had so much success under such difficult conditions with this mission. It would be tragic if they couldn't bring Hayabusa home -- tragic for the mission, but more than that, tragic because the loss of Hayabusa would mean that JAXA would get tremendous amounts of press about failure despite their many achievements with this mission. I am hoping fervently for Hayabusa's recovery and safe return!

Read more: Hayabusa (MUSES-C), mission status

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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