Japan’s space agency launched a cutting-edge satellite last month designed to study the cosmos, with a focus on black holes and the genesis of the universe. But now? No one knows what happened to it.
The Japanese Space Agency named the project Hitomi, and described it as an “essential mission to solve mysteries of the universe in X-rays.” As Gizmodo notes, the satellite was supposed to wake up and start communicating with the ground team this weekend. But, instead of a thumbs up, they received some random signals and associated reports of space debris. Weirdly enough, the random signals came about after the space debris was spotted.
Though that sounds like the starting point for a Syfy original movie (I kid, I kid), Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Jonathan McDowell noted portions of the satellite could conceivably have remained together long enough to send out some signals after whatever happened to break the craft apart. (Cue conspiracy theory about a time-travel mission to stop the craft before it starts, because it finds something that will kill us all. Man, this really does sound like a cool movie idea ...).
Of course, the question remains: No one actually knows what the heck actually happened to the satellite. Sadly, despite those early messages, the ground crew has now lost complete communication with Hitomi at this point. So, basically, chalk the $273 million project up as a loss at this point.