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Hayabusa finds asteroid is a young object
Posted: Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 7:55 AM ET (1255 GMT)
Hayabusa spacecraft illus. (JAXA) Data collected by Hayabusa, a Japanese asteroid mission, has found that the asteroid the spacecraft visited may have formed just 10 million years ago as an agglomeration of debris. Aviation Week reported in this week's issue that planetary scientists, studying images taken of the asteroid Itokawa, think the object is not an intact object but instead made of older debris that coalesced into the body about 10 million years ago. Itokawa is likely a "contact binary", two separate bodies joined together by a "neck" of smooth material. Hayabusa, which has suffered a number of technical problems during its mission, was designed to collect samples of the asteroid and return them to Earth. Problems with the spacecraft's thrusters prevented the spacecraft from entering an Earth-bound trajectory as planned in December, but officials are hopeful they can perform a similar maneuver in 2007, which would allow the spacecraft to return to Earth in 2010.
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