What are asteroids made of?
To help find out,
JAXA space agency launched the
Hayabusa mission to
Last week, the small robotic Hayabusa spacecraft arrived at asteroid
Itokawa and stationed itself only 20 kilometers away.
Although a long term goal is to find out how much ice, rock and trace
elements reside on the asteroid's surface, a shorter term goal is to
determine the mass of the asteroid by measuring the attraction of the drifting
During the next few months,
Hayabusa will also image and map asteroid Itokawa as it orbits the Sun.
The above time-lapse image sequence was taken by Hayabusa upon final approach,
showing the general oblong shape of the
In November, a small coffee-can sized robot dubbed
MINERVA is scheduled for release and is expected to hop around the asteroid taking pictures.
Also in November, Hayabusa will fire pellets into
and collect some of the debris in a return capsule.
In December, Hayabusa
will fire its rockets toward Earth and drop the
return capsule to Earth in 2007 June.