Science

Japan Seeks Guinness World Records Listing for Space Probe

An artist's illustration of the sample return capsule from Japan's Hayabusa asteroid probe returning to Earth on June 13, 2010 to end its 7-year mission.

An artist's illustration of the sample return capsule from Japan's Hayabusa asteroid probe returning to Earth on June 13, 2010 to end its 7-year mission.  (JAXA)

Japan's space agency applied for a Guinness World Records listing after its Hayabusa space probe returned from its seven-year journey to an ancient asteroid, an official said Tuesday.

Hayabusa, "falcon" in Japanese, left Earth in 2003 and returned late Sunday, completing its three-billion-mile round trip to the Itokawa asteroid.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) applied Monday to the London-based Guinness World Records to list Hayabusa's trailblazing journey, an official with the agency said.

"We are seeking its recognition as the first-ever spacecraft that landed on and returned from a celestial body other than the moon, and also for completing the longest ever (space) journey," the official said.

JAXA was not seeking recognition of the total distance Hayabusa traveled, as it is a rough estimate and not scientifically important, she said.

As planned, the spacecraft burned up on re-entering Earth's atmosphere, creating a fireball in the night sky over the Australian Outback.

Before its fiery end, it released a heatproof sample canister which scientists hope contains material from the asteroid's surface to give them clues on the origins of the solar system.

The pod, which made a textbook parachute landing in the Australian Outback town of Coober Pedy in South Australia, was to leave Thursday for Japan to be analyzed.