The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa is likely to have failed in its landmark mission to collect the first-ever samples from an asteroid, mission officials said on Wednesday. It also faces trouble returning to Earth.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) had earlier said the Hayabusa probe "most probably" succeeded in gathering material from the Itokawa asteroid, 290 million kilometres from Earth, on 26 November. The spacecraft was thought to have landed on the space rock for just one second, firing two metal pellets to throw up material for collection in a cone-shaped horn.
"But now we found that the possibility is very high that a metal bullet to collect samples was not actually fired," a JAXA official said. "And therefore the possibility is also very high that Hayabusa has failed to collect samples". The official added that the agency still had a "slim" hope that the probe may have caught some dust.
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