ScienceShot: Asteroid Sampling Spacecraft Will Return

The Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission, once thought lost, is returning after all! When the spacecraft touched down on asteroid Itokawa in November 2005, there were questions about whether it could get back home because of attitude control device failures and fuel leaks. But yesterday in Tokyo, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced that the sample recovery capsule will land in a remote quarter of Australia on 13 June. If the capsule really contains asteroid fragments, as hoped, they will be the first returned from a planetary body since Apollo astronauts hauled back their last load of moon rocks some 40 years ago. Since it is within Earth's gravitational pull, Hayabusa is the first spacecraft returning to Earth after landing on and lifting off a heavenly object other than the Moon.