PERHAPS “ARM’S REACH TO AN asteroid” would be more accurate, but: For the first time ever, humanity has reached out with metal fingers and grabbed a hunk of asteroid to hold before its face.
To put it less poetically, Japanese scientists announced today that the space probe Hayabusa, battered and crippled but still greatly game, did indeed scoop up a bit of asteroid Itokawa and return it to Earth. As John Matson writes on Scientific American‘s blog today:
Material scooped out … with a special spatula and examined with scanning electron microscopy revealed “about 1,500 grains…and most of them were judged to be of extraterrestrial origin, and definitely from Asteroid Itokawa,” according to a JAXA press release. Most of the rocky particles are less than 10 microns in length. (A micron is one millionth of a meter.)
For the rest of the story, click http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=hayabusa-probe-succeeded-in-returni-2010-11-16. Meanwhile, could we please have a standing ovation?