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Friday, May 31, 2013

My LEGO Hayabusa Spacecraft Model

This is what I got in the mail a few days ago! It's the CUUSOO club LEGO Hayabusa kit!

I had only previously heard of it being on sale in Japan only... or exaggeratedly priced on E-Bay, and thus out of my somewhat meager price range... but then I decided to poke around the LEGO website - and lo and behold! They were offering the kit as an exclusive model for a mere $59.99 Cdn. I also got a small Iron Man Minifig with some dumb alien drone for free...

So I built it.

At a total of 369 pieces, I figured I'd be done in 20 minutes because despite being the type of person who likes to go long and slow, I like to challenge myself with how fast I can build an actual kit... mostly to assure myself that my seven-year-old son doesn't surpass me. I'm not ready for that yet.

(I should mention that my son played his first organized soccer game earlier this evening... and while I feared he would stink, he was the best player on our team and made me feel proud... and yes "our team"... I'm the ass coach... I mean assistant coach. That first coaching comment - that's something completely different and has no place in this space, though we did get our butt kicked 3-0).

So... I took my time... it took about three hours or more... while I hated the fact that the kit came with the bricks in something like five bags, the step-by-step instructions had me searching from one bag to the next for the required bricks. So I said screw it and dumped it onto the table I use to build my LEGO, so that I can watch TV and come up with yet another great story about Japan.

Yes... how is this about Japan? Well, the Hayabusa is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spacecraft whose goal was to take soil samples from asteroids.

Asteroids, if you will recall, are plentiful in the orbit around our sun (Sol) between the planets Mars and Jupiter. basically, these chunks of rock might have formed into another planet, but its proximity to Jupiter's gravitational pull made it impossible for the rocks to accrete into a planet.

Why the asteroid soil sample? Well, it is hoped that the samples could tell us (people) more about the origins of the solar system, as its untouched surface would contain a far better record of the planet-forming time of our solar system than other planets which are bombarded by meteor(ites), or are covered in dust or gases.

The Hayabusa went up into space on May 9, 2003 launching from the Kagoshima Space Center (now called the Uchinoura Space Center). It's four ion engines (the main power) are weak, but have great fuel efficiency, and after two long years it rendezvoused with the asteroid in September of 2005.

It surveyed the asteroid dubbed 25143 Itokawa, after famed pioneering Japanese rocket scientist Dr. Itokawa Hideo (surname first) from a distance of about 20 kilometers before it moved in for a closer look, with an attempted landing taking place on November 20, 2005.

Although a sensor noted an obstacle during the Hayabusa's autonomous landing that destabilized its attitude, the space craft bounced a few times on the surface before achieving a safe landing.. though it sat leaning at an angle for about 30 minutes.

It lifted off and then on November 26, 2005 it landed a second time.

The way this spacecraft was designed to collect soil sample, was that it was supposed to fire pellets into the surface of the asteroid just before it landed so that the 'dust' could land on its sampling horn. 

The problem was that no pellets were fired on this second landing. Still there was hope that the two landing impacts would have kicked up enough dust.

The irregular-shaped Itokawa (the asteroid) is small, measuring only 535 m x 294m x 209m. It's smooth in some areas, and rocky in others.

Anyhow... mission accomplished, right? Wrong.

It now had to come back home with the samples. Unfortunately the spacecraft lost contact with the Space Center for about six weeks.

That problem, and other minor glitches actually added an extra three years to the return flight... as all but one of the ion engines failed. Luckily working from the Space Center, the space team managed to combine parts of two of the failed ion engines into one additional ion engine.

On June 13, 2010, Hayabusa made it home.

The analysis of the soil samples taken by Hayabusa (the largest was only 0.3mm in size), show that it contained bits of olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase and iron sulfide.

Scientists figure this stuff has been there for millions of years, and that the asteroid itself is actually part of the interior of a larger asteroid that broke apart - hence the smooth and rocky appearances.

Anyhow... that should be enough on the real space craft. Back to mine.

I was having fun building this model... and everything was running smoothly until I had a problem of my own... I couldn't get one of the LEGO Black Technic Axle and Pin Connector (angled) to allow a pin to be inserted through its hole.

I tried and tried for a long time - maybe 10 seconds - before I peered more closely at it. Realizing I needed my glasses for that closer look, I put them on. Hmm... this piece did not have a circular opening for a round pin... it had an opening that would fit a cross-shaped pin.

Oh no! Those bastards gave me one wrong piece out of the four I needed.
The left piece has an interior cross, the right a circular opening. I needed one more circular piece.

Really. I had three that worked, and one that didn't. It was sort of like the opposite of what happened to the Hayabusa ion engines! Sort of. Work with me on this one.

So... I suppose I could call and bitch to LEGO customer service the next day and then wait two weeks for the stinking part to arrive... I couldn't build without it... it held the wing to the Hayabusa! Just adding one wing would through it off balance and cause it to crash.

This is all true stuff, by the way.

So... I figured I would try and search for a replacement piece by going through my bags and bags of LEGO. Going through shopping bag number three containing just black LEGO weird peieces - I found a replacement.

Snapped it on and powered back on my LEGO build.

I'm not bothering LEGO for a replacement part... they've been too good to me already and I don't want to look like a weenie whining about one missing brick. It's not worth my time, or theirs, or the cost for them to mail me the correct piece. But... if you, dear LEGO, need to know... I did purchase it from your website... if that helps you with quality assurance.

It's done. By the way... you may have noticed a bespectacled male Minifig standing underneath my model. That is a representation of Haybusa project manager Kawaguchi Junichiro (surname first).

You know you have made it as a complete nerd when you have your own LEGO Minifig.

I also love the fact that the kit came with a beautiful, color done square-bound 92-page instruction manual that contained lots of facts about the Hayabusa mission that I have re-written in this blog - to
hopefully make it clearer to you (and to me!).

And here is the final product! Tres cool! I added the blue plates behind it so you didn't have to see me watching some Joss Whedon show and get all jealous.

And even though this opens up so many jokes, I'm going to say it anyway. I had always wanted to go up into space... to be a Captain Kirk-like figure and boldly go where no man had gone before... with some green woman who looks liked Batgirl. Or maybe that's a more recent dream.

Andrew Joseph


  1. That's an awesome LEGO set - It looks like fun to build!

    1. Hi Lindsey! Yes, it was fun to build! I would recommend checking out the Lego website under products - and see, from time-to-time, if it is available. It's rare. I had only seen it on e-Bay before that for inflated prices... then I got lucky at Lego and ordered it asap. Thanks for writing!