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Emily LakdawallaJune 8, 2010

Hayabusa: "I did my best!"

While he was in Japan to observe IKAROS' sail deployment, Lou Friedman couldn't help but notice the country's excitement over the impending return of Hayabusa. He sent an email to me this morning, saying:

Hayabusa has become an anthropomorphic hero in Japan, usually depicted in newspapers and in publications as a male character. The name means "Falcon," and the Japanese Falcon is getting a lot more publicity in Japan than SpaceX's rocket Falcon 9 in the U.S. Movies and stories are being written about it. Its saga is an adventure story of heroism.

The mission has an exceedingly ambitious goal using a new technology from a space center that has not yet completed a planetary mission. While there have been many setbacks and engineering difficulties on its seven-year mission, it has nonetheless been brilliantly programmed and controlled by its mission operators and is now on the verge of returning to Earth. Automated sample return from the surface of a solar system body has only been done once before, by the Soviet Union from the Moon in 1972. It is difficult. Whatever is the result, the mission is an engineering triumph.To illustrate Japan's emotional investment in Hayabusa's saga, here's a drawing by renowned Japanese manga artist Machiko Satonaka:

Hayabusa, peregrine falcon

© 2010 Machiko Satonaka

Hayabusa, peregrine falcon
A depiction of Hayabusa, whose name means "peregrine falcon," by a renowned manga artist named Machiko Satonaka. The right word balloon translates to "I did my best!" The left word balloon translates to "I'll return soon!" In addition to publishing more than 20 manga works, Satonaka is a space enthusiast, a member of the council on future Japanese lunar exploration, and an advisor of space organizations including the Japan Space Forum. Thanks to Junya Terazono for the translation and information on Satonaka.

Meanwhile, now that the third trajectory maneuver has been successful in targeting Hayabusa at its planned entry point, preparations are underway to receive the capsule in Australia. Here's the ground track that Hayabusa will take on its final approach:

Hayabusa's ground track for its final Earth approach

ISAS / JAXA

Hayabusa's ground track for its final Earth approach
During Hayabusa's final approach to Earth, its ground track will initially travel slowly westward (a result of Earth's rotation). The spacecraft will actually pass over Uchinoura, Japan, from where it launched in 2003. In the final few hours, Hayabusa will accelerate Earthward, and the ground track will take an eastward hook. The capsule will separate about 3 hours prior to the Earth return, scheduled for about 14:00 UTC June 13.

Local Australian newspapers have announced roadblocks along the few highways that traverse the Woomera Prohibited Area: "A 60 kilometre section of the Stuart Highway will be closed by SAPOL (South Australian Police) from 10PM to midnight on the 13th of June 2010. The southern roadblock will be located 60 km north of Glendambo and the northern roadblock will be located approximately 120 kilometers south of Coober Pedy." (Thanks to UMSF user "Canman" for that info.) Daniel Muller posted the locations of the two roadblocks on Google Maps, so you can see for yourself where they are.

JAXA has advertised to the press the opportunity to apply for access to a feed of raw video (with no audio) from the control room, which will be available from 18:00-24:00 JST on June 13 -- which is 2 am to 8 am my time. It is going to be a brutal night, but hopefully it will have a happy ending!

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

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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