Earth to get hit by (a tiny bit of) an asteroid
If all goes well, a Japanese spacecraft will deliver a sample of asteroid material to earth in June of this year. The craft, called Hayabusa, visited and briefly landed on the asteroid Itokawa in 2005. Although the soil attempt to scoop up soil didn’t work, scientists hope that some material still adhered to the spacecraft.
Right now, Hayabusa is on a course that would miss our planet by 80,000 miles…so, there are some course corrections planned. On March 5, engineers turned off the craft’s ion engine to do some testing. (Fortunately, Hayabusa seems to be breaking better than a Toyota Prius.)
Earlier in its mission, the spacecraft suffered major problems and a successful return to earth would be quite an achievement. At the moment, success appears to be within reach.