by: Peter Ong [ ]
Launched on 9 May 2003, the Japanese Hayabusa (“Next Generation Asteroid Probe”) became the first space probe to land on a near-Earth asteroid, Itokawa (in mid-September 2005), collect samples from it, and return those samples to Earth (13 June 2010) via reentry capsule for analysis. The probe was not designed to actually land on the asteroid, but to “touch and go,” collecting minute particle grains. However, this probe sat on the surface of the asteroid for 30 minutes.
Hayabusa also carried a minilander, MINERVA, but an altitude release error sent the lander into space instead of on the surface of the asteroid.
From the scientists’ analysis, the grains from the sample capsule that survived reentry into Earth’s atmosphere contained concentrations of olivine and pyroxene often found in meteorites than rocks on Earth.
The kit consists of four sprues:
• Asteroid base and connecting holder stem to bottom of probe
• Probe body panels and detail parts
• Solar panels, detail parts, and radio antennae dish
• Circular base top and probe's top panel
Although a model kit scale isn’t mentioned on the box or instructions, some websites state it is 1/32nd scale. Nonetheless, the box does state that the actual length of the probe is 135mm, or about eight inches long when assembled. This kit does not appear to represent the actual space probe Hayabusa as some instructional assembly elements are missing, namely the radio dish and the triangular receiver pylons above the radio dish, and yet the parts are included in the kit. If the box art and instructions are ignored and the (optional) satellite antennae installed, the probe should represent the real Japanese probe quite well.
Molding and details appear extremely crisp and defined, reminiscent of Japanese precision engineering. The raised and engraved lines on the radio antennae dish and solar panels appear thin, straight, and fine almost to the point of looking like photoetch. I noticed that the body panels don’t have texturing wrinkles to match the gold film most space vehicles are covered with to reflect solar heat and radiation, but metallic gold foil will probably look better than textured wrinkles on plastic. The body panels are smooth with most of the surface details molded on. The molded-on details look very nice, devoid of errors, flash, or blobs. In fact, I didn’t see any errors, flash, or seam lines in the parts although one body panel had a slight machine burr mark across it.
The instructions are printed in both Japanese and English text. The cover page has text explaining choking hazard warnings and giving assembly advice. While no explanations of parts’ identification are given (i.e.: thrusters, sensors, sample capsule), the line drawings are clearly defined with text describing how to assemble the probe. The probe builds up simply: six body panels, two solar panels, and small detail parts…eight assembly steps in total. The back page of the instructions consist of sprue overhead drawings and shows that there are a few optional parts, namely the richly engraved satellite radio dish, the asteroid base, the satellite radio antennae dish receiver pyramid rods, and a top body panel. Interestingly, the real probe has the satellite radio dish antennae and pyramid rods leading up to the receiver module, but the model kit’s instructions shows these pieces as optional and does not include the satellite dish antennae in any assembly stage. Even the box art cover doesn’t show the satellite radio dish or pyramid receiver structure.
A color guide for painting appears on the side of the box and consists of silver, gold, blue, brown and black. The same box callout also shows required tools such as cutters, nippers, tweezers, and plastic cement.
The Aoshima “Next Generation Asteroid Probe” should appease beginner modelers as a simple kit to build. Although it misses assembling the satellite radio dish antennae and receiver in the instructions, the engineering and details appear very exquisite and crisp and the finished model should resemble the Japanese Hayabusa “Next Generation Asteroid Probe” quite well.