Recent Asteroid Missions


Artist’s impression of the Hayabusa spacecraft during a surface sample collection procedure on asteroid 25143 Itokawa.

Hayabusa was an unmanned spacecraft launched by the Japanese space agency JAXA in 2003 which visited the S-type asteroid 25143 Itokawa and successfully returned samples from it to Earth.


NASA Dawn spacecraft in orbit around asteroid 4 Vesta. Image: NASA

The NASA Dawn spacecraft was launched in 2007 with the objective of visiting both of the two largest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta. Dawn arrived at Vesta in 2011 and provided a wealth of data on this important body. Vesta supplies a significant suite of meteorites to Earth. Dawn is currently mapping Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt.