October 6, 2010

Hayabusa Reveals Possible Extraterrestrial Particles

Japan's space agency has found particles in the capsule of the Hayabusa space probe that may be extraterrestrial.

The Yomiuri newspaper and Kyodo News agency reported that scientists discovered minute particles that may be from outside Earth.

The newspaper said that their components have characteristics that differ from dust or aluminum powder samples that had been collected earlier.

The Hayabusa space probe was sent off to an asteroid seven years ago, and returned on June 24 with samples taken during its expedition.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) started a lengthy examination of the probe's multi-layer sample canister in cooperation with NASA.

JAXA confirmed that scientists found "minute particles" in the pod but it was unclear whether they were contaminants from Earth or from the Itokawa asteroid.

It said it would hold a press conference on progress in its analysis later Wednesday.  It will take months in order to get the final results.

Scientists hope asteroid samples could reveal secrets about the origins of the solar system.

Hayabusa faced technical problems during its journey.  At one point, the probe spun out of control and lost contact with JAXA for seven weeks. 

Once the probe finally latched onto the Itokawa asteroid, a pellet-firing system designed to stir up dust to gather samples malfunctioned.
The space probe landed in the Australian outback in mid-June after completing its seven-year journey.


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