Hayabusa's approach to Itokawa
Itokawa (eye-TOK-ah-wah) is an elongated, 600 m long asteroid that follows a 1.5 year orbit that crosses Earth's orbit. The asteroid, number 25,143 is also known as 1998SF36, was discovered by the LINEAR program in 1998. It is named in honour of the late Dr. Hideo Itokawa, the father of Japanís space development program.
In a mission to study the asteroid, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, launched the spacecraft Hayabusa (hie-AB-oo-sah) in May 2003. The craft arrived at Itokawa in September 2005.
During September and October 2005, Hayabusa will gradually move closer as it images and maps the asteroid. In November, it will touch down on the surface to release a miniature rover, Minerva, that will hop over the surface and take photos. While on the surface, Hayabusa will also and collect a small amount of asteroid material. In December 2005, the spacecraft will leave the asteroid and set off an a sample-return journey to Earth. It will arrive home in June 2007 and parachute down to a collection point in central Australia.
Source: JAXA Hayabusa Mission Home Page
4th September 2005 - image 1
Range: 1,000 km