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    Falcon doesn’t perch

    Darn. Too bad:

    A Japanese research probe failed to touch down on an asteroid Sunday after maneuvering within meters to collect surface samples, JAXA, Japan’s space agency said.

    The Hayabusa probe, which botched a rehearsal earlier this month, was on a mission to briefly land on the asteroid, collect material, then bring it back to Earth.

    When Hayabusa was 40 meters above the asteroid Itokawa, it dropped a small object as a touchdown target, then descended to 17 meters, said officials from Japan’s space agency, JAXA.

    At that point, ground control lost contact with the probe for about three hours, the officials said.

    “Hayabusa reached extremely close, but could not make the landing,” said JAXA spokesman Toshihisa Horiguchi, adding that the reason for the failure was unknown.

    At least this project was launched successfully. Not all of them have been over the last few years, though normally I think it was satellites that were involved. This wasn’t a military mission, of course, but Japan is justifiably keeping an eye on China’s increased military spending, and visible tech screw-ups like this don’t look good, either internally or externally.

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