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Saturday, 26 June 2010 23:57

Students record breakup of Hayabusa spacecraft


The Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft returned to Earth from its asteroid mission on June 13, 2010. Several high school students recorded the breakup of Hayabusa as it soared through our atmosphere over Australia. Learn the story about how they got to be part of the event.


The U.S. students, from Massachusetts, were inside an airplane at an altitude of approximately 41,000 feet (12.5 kilometers), or about 7.7 miles, when the Hayabusa spacecraft returned to Earth from its 7-billion-mile (11.3-billion-kilometer) mission to collect material from an asteroid.

Ron Dantowitz, of Brookline, Massachusetts, is the science teacher for the students, who got the unexpected chance to see and record the event of the spacecraft returning materials from an asteroid.

Late last year, according to the June 25, 2010 NASA Science article 'Students Record Spellbinding Video of Disintegrating Spacecraft,' Mr. Dantowitz, 'played a clever trick on three of his best students. He asked them to plan a hypothetical mission to fly onboard a NASA DC-8 aircraft and observe a spacecraft disintegrate as it came screaming into Earth's atmosphere. How would they record the event? What could they learn?'

And, for the next six months these three students worked on this hypothetical mission. The students are James Breitmeyer, Yiannis Karavas, and Brigitte Berman, from the Dexer and Southfield Schools in Brookline, Massachusetts. However, Dantowitz wasn't telling them the whole story.

Finally, on March 12, 2010, Dantowitz told them the entire story: "The mission is real, and you're going along for the ride."

So Dantowitz and his students traveled to Australia to track the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft as it sped through Earth's atmosphere at speeds of 27,000 miles (43,500 kilometers) per hour.

While in a NASA DC-8 aircraft, they recorded the fiery re-entry event on a video.


Page two concludes.


James Breitmeyer, one of the students, stated, "As it came into our camera's field of view, Hayabusa looked like a little white dot at first, and we all followed it for a few seconds without uttering a sound. Then it exploded into a big orange fireworks display, with pieces flying off. Everyone crooned 'Ooooo' at the same time!' [NASA]

NASA states, 'Their newly-processed video is a must-see.' To see the 'spellbinding' video of the re-entry of the Hayabusa spacecraft, please go to: Hayabusa Spacecraft Reenty.

For additional information on the Hayabusa spacecraft, please read the NASA Science article 'Hayabusa.



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