Space Robotics

Minerva Lost In Space But Mother Ship OK

Posted 13 Nov 2005 at 14:30 UTC by The Swirling Brain Share This

The tiny asteroid-hopping robot named Minerva appears to have lost its way. Sadly, the asteroid hopping robot Minerva was deployed on Saturday but went adrift instead of heading toward the asteroid Itokawa. The mother ship, named Hayabusa, returned to its regular home orbit around the asteroid and is OK. It appears what happened is that a message to deply was sent to the mother ship too late. The mother ship was to deploy Minerva while the craft was heading down toward the asteroid. Messages sent to the spacecraft takes about 16 minutes to arrive. So, by the time the message arrived to the robotic mother ship the preprogramed mother ship had already turned around and started going away from the asteroid. So, Minerva was deployed late and sent on a path away from the asteroid instead of toward it. So it looks like some sort of timing mistake by the JAXA programmers or operators. JAXA was already reporting technical problems and delays with the release, and so it wasn't sure to happen anyway. Goodbye Minerva, we'll miss you.

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