Stories, updates, insights, and original analysis from The Planetary Society.
The audience was rapt as Project Manager Jun'ichiro Kawaguchi stood up to give an introduction to the Hayabusa spacecraft and described the saga of the mission to date.
Remember how Hayabusa was virtually still for 30 minutes? JAXA is now saying that Hayabusa actually touched down -- and more than that, they may even have a sample.
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
There has been a delay of just about a day in JAXA's plans for landing Hayabusa on Itokawa.
These photos pretty much speak for themselves. They are amazing. Hayabusa saw its own shadow on Itokawa, and took a photo of the released target marker.
The Hayabusa mission has proven to be a bit of a tease -- they were releasing lots of images to the public as they approached asteroid Itokawa, but once they arrived, the image releases shut down entirely. There is finally a little postage stamp of an image captured by Hayabusa at
This lovely animation of Itokawa represents 20 individual images taken between 18:10 on September 5 and 00:30 on September 6, from a distance of less than 700 kilometers away.