JAXA's Asteroid Probe on Journey Back to Earth
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced its Hayabusa asteroid probe has turned on its engines to continue the journey home.
“We are continuing to pay careful attention to our onboard equipment and are doing our utmost to operate the Hayabusa with the greatest care,” JAXA said in an official statement. “We will continue to gradually accelerate the Hayabusa until around March 2010 to carry out the second phase orbit maneuvering for returning it to Earth.”
Until recently, Hayabusa has simply glided through space in Earth’s direction, but JAXA officials decided it was time to have it restart one of the probe’s four ion-powered engine to help with the journey.
If all goes according to JAXA’s plans, Hayabusa will finally return to Earth in June 2010. The probe’s important cargo is a canister that contains samples collected from the asteroid Itokawa, which will be a great accomplishment for the Japanese space agency.