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Picture of Suisei spacecraft
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Sakigake & Suisei

Sakigake and Suisei are nearly identical Japanese spacecrafts, designed to fly by Halley's comet and study its effects on space environment.

Sakigake was launched on Jan. 7, 1985, followed by Suisei on August 18, 1985. The two headed for Comet Halley, passing by it and returning ultraviolet images and measurements of its interaction with the solar wind. Sakigake flew within 7 million km (4.4 million miles) while Suisei came within 98,000 miles, even suffering 2 dust impacts from the comet's tail. The spacecrafts were both given new directions and both were scheduled to encounter Comet Giacobini-Zinner in 1998. Suisei ran out of fuel in 1991, and contact with it has been lost. Sakigake ran out of fuel in 1995; so neither spacecraft was able to encounter Giacobini-Zinner.

Since 1975, Japan has launched several satellites and interplanetary spacecrafts to the Moon and comets in our solar system, with plans to expand their lunar exploration program in the future. The Lunar A mission, scheduled for launch in 2002, involves deployment of two penetrators on the lunar surface. The penetrators will have seismometers and heat-flow probes that will be used to study the Moon's interior. Through cooperative efforts involving other countries, Japanese space agencies hope to build a space station on the Moon and establish a permanent human presence there by 2030.


Last modified December 5, 2000 by Jennifer Bergman.

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