An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will slip inside the moon’s orbit later today and fly past Earth, the closest asteroid approach since the U.S. bicentennial. It will not land on the planet or do anything to it, but observatories on spaceship Earth will be watching closely.
A plucky Japanese probe burned up in a spectacular fireworks display Sunday, celebrating the end of a mission that found success despite being plagued with problems.
The Hayabusa probe overcame several obstacles to fly 3 billion miles to and from a tiny asteroid, land on its surface and (hopefully) collect samples. The spacecraft broke up in the upper atmosphere upon returning home, but not before it released a 15-inch capsule that might contain samples from the asteroid Itokawa. If it does, the sample will be the first material ever returned to Earth from a celestial body other than the moon.