2008/12/08: the Update Information Page is open.
The Hayabusa (the original code name was MUSES-C) engineering spacecraft was designed to acquire samples from the surface of near-Earth asteroid 25143 Itokawa (1998 SF36) and return them to Earth. The main objectives of the mission were to demonstrate the performance of various technical items such as ion engines, autonomous navigation, sampling of the asteroid's surface, and high-speed reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. In addition, important scientific results were expected from this mission.
HAYABUSA spacecraft was launched by the fifth Mu V launch vehicle on 9 May 2003. After cruising with nearly continuous operation of the ion engines and an Earth swingby on 19 May 2004, the spacecraft arrived at an altitude of about 20 km (Gate position) near the sub-Earth point on 12 September 2005. After a period of reconnaissance operation, the spacecraft transferred to the nominal hovering position (Home position) on 30 September 2005, at an altitude of about 7 km from the asteroid's surface and near the sub-Earth point. During 8 to 28 October 2005, the spacecraft left the home position and made tours to various altitudes and solar phase angles to access the polar regions. A sampling location on a smooth terrain called Muses Sea was selected. The touchdown, the 30-min stay on the asteroid surface, and the liftoff were performed on 19 and 25 November. HAYABUSA is now under preparations for its return trip to the Earth in 2010