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HAYABUSA - the news sucks at covering complicated missions.

Posted by: TerraMrs - Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:31 am
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HAYABUSA - the news sucks at covering complicated missions. 
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Post HAYABUSA - the news sucks at covering complicated missions.   Posted on: Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:31 am
I remember last year I was reading about the HAYABUSA mission on it's NASA/JAXA pages and concluded based on the sampling mechanism probably failing that if it did make it back it would have dust and not rocks inside. Wikipedia seems to agree with me on this: "In November 2005, it landed on the asteroid and attempted to collect samples but it is not clear whether the sampling mechanism worked as intended."

Not one news story I've seen has contained any qualifications whatsoever about the success or lack thereof of the sampling mechanism. I don't disagree with them that it does probably contain some dust, which is still a scientific coup, but it is very misleading to say "contains samples of asteroid rocks" or similar when the gun used to gather rocks almost certainly never fired, leaving the sample return canister with a small coating of dust as the scientific haul from the mission.

Everyone should keep in mind, after they announce that they got back some pitifully small amount of sample and everyone's disappointed, that HAYABUSA was primarily a technology demonstrator, and as such it most definitely fulfilled its primary mission. Beset by a slew of problems, most significantly the loss of all its engines except one over the course of the flight, it still managed to not only orbit the asteroid and collect lots of good scientific data, but actually land and then return to earth. Despite the fact that the lander failed and the samples are probably going to be disappointing (i'm sure there will still be good discoveries, but they (the samples) will be very hard to get access to), this mission is a resounding success. However, I feel like the news coverage is extremely disappointing in not only failing to highlight the true successes of the mission, but also failing to highlight the phenomenal difficulties the mission team encountered with the spacecraft. Ultimately, the journey of HAYABUSA will probably end up ranking pretty close behind Apollo 13 in terms of spectacularly close calls in space missions. I wish this were emphasized properly.

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Post Re: HAYABUSA - the news sucks at covering complicated missions.   Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:48 am
Welcome to the modern news world. Now, if the spacecraft had had somebody from 'Britain/America/Mexico/Japan/Mongolia Got Talent" on board, then this would be front page stuff. The news is so dumbed down nowadays, they are not interested in something that is a great technical leap, but doesn't actually have much to show for it.

That said, the BBC news website coverage wasn't too bad. I believe it mentioned that they were not sure of the state of the sample.

That layer of dust however, if its there, could contain enough to give them years of investigation. The stardust probe sample return brought back only a few microscopic grams of stuff, and they still have years to go analysing that. Hayabusa could return much more.


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Post Re: HAYABUSA - the news sucks at covering complicated missions.   Posted on: Wed Jun 16, 2010 11:22 am
i played stardust@home for a while... believe me i know how much they have! what? the estimate was 40 um-scale grains of interstellar dust + a bunch of comet stuff. and they've only actually found like 2 of the interstellar things. that was a great mission though.

but yeah, i can't say i'm surprised at the coverage. it just seems like they might take the chance to bash space on the hayabusa thing - arguing that they went to all this effort and spent all this money to get them back and it probably doesn't have anything. it'd almost be better for them to actually address the mission in a derogatory manner than to simply restate its mission and that it's coming back to earth- basically ignoring all the important details.

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