About this design
Admire the Hayabusa space probe - the first man-made object ever to have "touched down" on an asteroid AND return to Earth. The story of Hayabusa's mission is extraordinary, with it overcoming many obstacles to achieve a successful mission. Launched in May 2003, en-route to the asteroid Itokawa, Hayabusa's solar cells were damaged by a large solar flare - this reduced the efficiency of its ion engines and delayed its arrival to the asteroid by 3 months. In 2005, after mapping Itokawa's surface from a distance of 7.5km's, two flywheel's used to change the spacecraft's angular momentum (without using fuel or thrusters) failed, changing the mission plan slightly. Hayabusa then moved in closer for various tests and on 19th November 2005, it landed on the asteroid. Hayabusa carried a small rover (called MINERVA) that was due to be released onto the asteroid, but contact with it was lost. Various errors at this stage forced Hayabusa into 'safe mode' and contact with the probe itself was also lost for approx. 2 weeks as it automatically 'lifted off' and moved away from Itokawa. On 30th November, control & communication of Hayabusa was restored albeit with some problems in the reacion control system (probably caused by the contact made with the asteroid or from frozen pipes). This also affected the mission and Hayabusa was late in returning to Earth (due to trajectory alignments) by about 3 years. It did return though, thanks to considerable effort from the Japanese Space Agency, overcoming many obstacles. To think that this little probe was launched from earth, chased down an asteroid, landed on it and then returned back to earth is remarkable. Admire it by wearing this Hayabusa T-shirt.