Video: Return of the Hayabusa asteroid mission capsule

From NASA:
A group of astronomers from NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and other organizations had a front row seat to observe the Hayabusa spacecraft's fiery plunge into Earth's atmosphere. The team flew aboard NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory, packed with cameras and other imaging instruments, to capture the high-speed re-entry over an unpopulated area of central Australia on June 13, 2010. The Japanese spacecraft completed its seven-year, 1.25 billion mile journey to return a sample of the asteroid Itokawa.
"Hayabusa Asteroid Mission Comes Home" (Thanks, Jim Leftwich!)


  1. Two things made me laugh here. The first was the term “over an unpopulated area of central Australia”. Central Australia is largely desert. It barely needs qualification as “unpopulated”, and specifying “an unpopulated area” is similar to saying “I work in a building in Tokyo” – ie, you aren’t learning much from the qualification.

    Then, of course, it occurred to me how anthropocentric I was being. Of course, while it may be desert and not very accommodating to human needs, that fact alone makes it perfect for some ecosystems to survive. Life in the Australian outback can be incredibly rich and diverse.

    1. You’re right. Oh hang on, central Australia barely needs qualification as unpopulated?

      Forgetting anyone?

  2. Can’t wait for the results from the capsule! Sadly, the analysis will take some time to see just how much (if any) rocks and dust made it inside.

  3. Did you see the capsule here?

    All that work for something not much bigger than a lunchbox. Why the HURT LOCKER treatment? They worried the fizzies inside are all shook up and ready to pop?

    Good work JAXA and NASA and the cosmic forces that nudged this tin can back to Earth.

    If they want to recoup some of the mission cost they can take the parachutes, cut them into 1 cm squares and sell them off at a few thousand a pop. I’d buy one if I had that kinda money.

  4. Optuser: The capsule used pyrotechnics to jettison the heat shield and backshell, and to deploy the parachute. The guy with the helmet is ‘safing’ the capsule, ensuring that all pyro devices have been fired, and removing them if they have not.

    Of course, though, that’s just the cover story. You saw the original ‘Alien’, I assume. The faceguard is just common sense.

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