The Planetary Society congratulates the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) for reestablishing communications with their spacecraft Hayabusa after losing contact following its rendezvous with the asteroid Itokawa on an historic sample return mission in late 2005. The Society's online coverage of Hayabusa includes additional information on the mission.
"Hayabusa's mission to asteroid Itokawa certainly is a high point in planetary exploration," said Bruce Murray, co-founder of The Planetary Society. "The successful reestablishment of communications is a great achievement and enhances a mission, which has already furthered our understanding of another mysterious denizen of the inner solar system."
While preparing to begin its journey back to Earth in December 2005, Hayabusa suffered a propellant leak that caused the spacecraft to spin out of control, breaking off communications. After months of intensive effort, the mission team has again established communications with, and control of, the spacecraft and is working towards bringing it back to Earth in 2010.
"The control and operation of Hayabusa by the Japanese space agency is a fantastic story of ingenuity and dedication," added the Society's Executive Director, Louis Friedman. "The mission controllers at JAXA deserve enormous credit."
Hayabusa launched on May 9, 2003 and arrived at Itokawa on September 12, 2005. The spacecraft marked the sampling site on the asteroid with a softball-sized target, which not only guided Hayabusa to the surface, but also landed the names of 880,000 residents of Earth on a very distant chunk of real estate. The Planetary Society helped its sister organization, The Planetary Society of Japan (TPS/J), collect the names in a worldwide campaign in 2002, and the list includes the names of all members of The Planetary Society as of July of that year.
TPS/J is the first international affiliate of The Planetary Society. Since its inception in 1999, the Japanese organization has sponsored a variety of public outreach activities through its website and publications, both independently and in cooperation with The Planetary Society.
For further information on this innovative mission, visit the Japanese space agency's website.