(Hayabusa) A joint space mission by Japan and the USA to take samples from a small near-Earth asteroid (NEA) and return them to the Earth. It was launched on May 8 2003, more than a year behind schedule and with a change of target from the original (4660) Nereus to asteroid 1998SF36 (which was given the Japanese name Itokawa). After launch, MUSES-C was renamed Hayabusa (meaning ‘Falcon’). The craft was scheduled to enter orbit around the asteroid in 2005 and was to investigate it using visible and infrared imaging. It was also set to fire three ‘bullets' into the asteroid's surface and attempt to capture the particles of material ejected by the impacts. MUSES-C will return to Earth by 2007 and drop off the samples in a capsule attached to a parachute.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006