Emily LakdawallaJun 10, 2010

Hayabusa: Waiting

We're in the final days of the Hayabusa mission, but until Sunday I think we're in a state of "no news is good news."

Which is not to say that things aren't busy on Earth. NASA's Ames Research Center issued a press release describing their preparations for the arrival of Hayabusa; they are treating the incoming capsule as an artificial meteor and will be studying its fireball with every instrument at their disposal to learn about what makes natural meteors glow and about what's really going on with sample return capsules when they are heated to fantastic temperatures, near 3,000&deg Celsius / 5,000° Fahrenheit.

Last night the Japan broadcasting corporation NHK showed a 30-minute documentary about "Hayabusa's 7-year adventure," so Twitter, at least, lit up with discussion of the incoming spacecraft.

Meanwhile, in Australia, an antenna now waits to listen for the faint signal sent from of Hayabusa's sample return capsule; they are running through rehearsals to prepare for the midnight return of the capsule on June 13.

Waiting for a signal from Hayabusa
Waiting for a signal from Hayabusa A directional antenna sits in the Woomera desert in southern Australia on June 10, 2010, waiting to hear a signal from the incoming Hayabusa sample return capsule.Image: JAXA / JSPEC

I've gotten inquiries from Australian readers on what they might see. I'm not really sure; this web page (in English, fortunately) has a picture of a sky map from Glendambo that shows the predicted path. It does not seem to get very far above the horizon there; the spacecraft will be at an altitude of 100 kilometers when predicted to be at its maximum brightness.

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