Like a hummingbird hovering over a tantalizing blossom, a small but virtuoso Japanese spacecraft is poised to touch down in the coming days on the surface of an asteroid 180 million miles away, stir up a small cloud of dust and gather in a sample.
Barring a mishap, Hayabusa, or "Falcon," is expected to make two and possibly three touch-and-goes on the asteroid Itokawa, then return to Earth with a tenth of an ounce of asteroid dust.
If it succeeds, Hayabusa will be the first spacecraft to land on a celestial body and bring something back from it since U.S. astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt collected samples from the moon during the last Apollo lunar mission, in 1972.
Someone please arrange for Shonen Knife to do a song called "Hayabusa." Thank you.