Tuesday, August 30, 2011

JAXA Hayabusa reveals source of Earth asteroids

The longstanding mystery of where most meteorites striking our planet come from has now been solved by the first asteroid samples that a spacecraft has ever returned to Earth.

This discovery is just one of many unearthed with the aid of the Japanese asteroid probe Hayabusa.

Another is that asteroids may be shrinking away to nothing, researchers said.

Hayabusa faced many perils on its seven-year mission, including fuel leaks, engine trouble and the loss of the lander intended to gather space rock samples.

Nevertheless, the unmanned mission succeeded when a capsule containing more than 1,500 grains of asteroid dust parachuted into the Australian outback in June 2010. [Photos: Japan's Mission to Asteroid Itokawa]

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