100 Scousers lost in space

One hundred names from Liverpool were lost in space yesterday after a daring bid to land a hopping robot on an asteroid failed.
Space scientists lost contact with the tea-caddy sized probe Minerva after it was relased from its £100million mother ship Hayabusa on Saturday.
Apart from a 3D camera, it was also carrying an aluminium sheet with the names of 100 Liverpudlians, collected by city asteroid expert Dr Benny Peiser among a million gathered worldwide.
Mission control in Japan believes Minerva may have gone into orbit around the asteroid Itokawa because it was released as Hayabusa was moving away from the space rock.
The craft has already had problems with its rocket thrusters.
Minerva, was meant to hop across the surface of the 600yard long sausage-shaped asteroid after its 620million mile flight from Earth.
Japan still hopes to collect samples of the asteroid by brushing Hayabusa alongside it on Saturday and again later this month.
Dust and rock they pick up will then be flown home to Earth and parachuted into the Australian outback.
Project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi said last night: “Sending Minerva to the surface did not work.
“Hayabusa is jerking in an awkward manner, likely due to a malfunction of its positioning control system, but we want to fix that in time for its landing.”
Dr Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University, said of the loss of his 100 names: “It’s really a shame. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sir Alex Ferguson had a hand in this cosmic mishap.
“But at least we had another Scouser in space when Paul McCartney sang in the first-ever concert link-up to the space station.”

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By Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland has been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. He writes regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy, plus he has authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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