Bringing Back a Piece of Heaven

A damaged Japanese space probe is limping back home with what scientists pray will be a little piece of an asteroid from deep space

3 min read

23 March 2010—A small, severely damaged spacecraft named Hayabusa is limping back to Earth with a jury-rigged ion drive that would have made Star Trek’ s Scotty proud. Already seven years into its planned five-year mission to retrieve soil samples from an asteroid, the probe faces one last round of hazards before its midnight landing in Australia sometime in June with a sample canister.

If successful, the mission will mark the first retrieval of material samples from an object beyond the moon. (Two earlier NASA probes, Stardust and Genesis, retrieved nothing more than space dust from such distances.) Yet even if the canister turns out to be empty, the probe will still have brought back useful scientific observations, demonstrated the technology, and provided an inspirational example of ingenuity and perseverance.

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Top Tech 2023: A Special Report

These two dozen technical projects should make significant advances in the coming year

2 min read
Top Tech 2023: A Special Report
Edmon DeHaro

Each January, the editors of IEEE Spectrum offer up some predictions about technical developments we expect to be in the news over the coming year. You’ll find a couple dozen of those described in the following special report. Of course, the number of things we could have written about is far higher, so we had to be selective in picking which projects to feature. And we’re not ashamed to admit, gee-whiz appeal often shaped our choices.

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