Hayabusa, which literally means Peregrine Falcon, is a Japanese spacecraft that was sent to collect sample and data, in 2003, from a near-Earth asteroid named 25143 Itokawa. According to scientists this asteroid, which is 500m long and 150m wide, may have contained materials that originate from the time of the big bang. Itokawa is in the Apollo group and it is considered as a potentially hazardous asteroid, which means that it makes super close approaches to the Earth and is big enough to cause significant regional damage in the event of an impact.
The project of the Institution of Space and Astronautical Science of the University of Tokyo landed on the asteroid in 2005, after orbiting it for a few months to plan its surface. Samples were collected from a hole crafted into the surface of the asteroid. The asteroid’s shape, spin, topography, color, density, and history were all studied by Hayabusa. This mission was the first attempt to bring asteroid dust to Earth for analysis.
Hayabusa returned to Earth in 2010.
Examinations show a lack of impact craters and a quite rough surface studded with boulders, the mission team described this as a rubble pile. As its density is too low for it to be made from solid rock Itokawa is probably not a monolith but rather a rubble pile formed from fragments that have cohered over time. Dust collected from the surface is thought to have been exposed for about eight million years.
Other scientists suggest that the dark color on the surface of the asteroid is a result of abrasion by micro-meteoroids and high-speed particles from the Sun which had converted the normally whitish iron oxide coloring.
Written by: Rebeka Oláh
Rebeka Oláh is the Board Member for
Voyager Space Outreach for writing Blog posts on STEM/Space Topics.