Japan drops bomb on asteroid to make crater

Katie Ramirez
April 7, 2019

JAXA's goal is to use materials gathered from within the asteroid's structure to help understand the early formation of the Solar System, potentially billions of years ago.

"After the start of the operation, the camera (DCAM3) [that] separated from Hayabusa2 captured an image that shows ejection from Ryugu's surface, which implies that the SCI had functioned as planned", Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) officials wrote in an update this morning. The craft then continued to the far side of Ryugu to be shielded from any debris from the SCI explosion and from the crater. Japan's space agency JAXA said its Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully dropped the "small carry-on impactor" made of copper onto the asteroid and collect its underground samples to find possible clues to the origin of the solar system.

The cone-shaped impactor, fitted with a copper explosive the size of a baseball, was programmed to detonate 40 minutes after it was released, gouging a crater into the asteroid's surface.

It was created to come out of a cone-shaped piece of equipment.

A copper plate on the bottom of the ball was expected to turn into a ball as it fell from the spacecraft and slam into Ryugu at 2 km (1.2 miles) per second, the AP said. Once the dust from the impact site has settled, Hayabusa-2 will be sent back to the site to collect samples from the new crater that has not been exposed to cosmic rays.

The country's space agency has launched a key part of a unique mission, created to get underground samples from an asteroid, floating in space 300 million kilometres away from our planet.

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If successful, it would be the first time for a spacecraft to take such materials.

The shot hit its target - and Hayabusa2 even got a picture of the impact.

But the task scheduled for Friday will be the riskiest yet of Hayabusa2's investigations, and involves the release of a device filled with explosives. While moving away, Hayabusa2 also left a camera to capture the outcome. In addition to the sample-collection and SCI activities, the probe has studied the asteroid in detail and released two hopping minirovers and a 22-lb. "But we still have more missions to achieve and it's too early for us to celebrate". Then Hayabusa2 will once again land on Ryugu - after successfully touching down on its surface in February when it fired a bullet into the asteroid - to retrieve more rock and soil samples.

Last September, Hayabusa 2 deployed two robots on the surface of Ryugu - named after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale - that sent back dramatic video and still images.

The space agency, JAXA, used its Hayabusa2 spacecraft to destroy part of the Ryugu with a basketball sized bomb.

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