Spacecraft creates crater on asteroid with goal of unlocking solar system's origins

Katie Ramirez
April 9, 2019

At about 11 a.m. on April 5, the impactor used to make the crater separated from the probe, followed by the detachable "DCAM3" camera.

They hope collect underground samples for possible clues to the origin of the solar system.

The copper explosive was the size of a baseball and weighed 2 kilogrammes on Earth.

It was created to come out of a cone-shaped piece of equipment. If everything goes according to plan, scientists aim to send the spacecraft closer to asteroid Ryugu's surface to observe the crater and maybe grab some samples from the freshly-blasted area. In a 2005 "deep impact" mission to a comet, the USA space agency Nasa observed fragments after blasting the surface but did not collect them.

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced Friday the successful operation of an impactor to make a crater on the asteroid Ryugu - by ejecting a lump of copper to strike against its surface. The mission is the riskiest for Hayabusa2, as it has to immediately get away so it won't get hit by flying shards from the blast.

The SCI was shot from an altitude of 500 metres (1,640 feet) from the asteroid's surface, and the time from release and explosion was about 40 minutes.

Markoto Yoshikawa, the mission leader, said according to the AP: "So far, Hayabusa2 has done everything as planned, and we are delighted". "But we still have more missions to achieve and it's too early for us to celebrate". The spacecraft dropped two tiny hopping rovers onto the asteroid's boulder-strewn surface in late September, for example, then put a 22-lb. However, scientists will only be able to get this package from the asteroid named Ryugu after an undersea palace from Japanese fairy tales by late 2020, as Hayabusa2 is set to leave space only by the end of this year and travel 300 million kilometres back to Earth.

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Ryugu, which is just under 3,000 ft (914 metres) wide, is now 195 million miles from Earth.

After the dust from the impact settles, the Hayabusa-2 will move away from its hiding spot.

The probe launched in December 2014 and arrived at the dice-shaped space rock on June 27, 2018.

And in February, Hayabusa2 itself spiraled down to Ryugu, snagging a sample of rock and dirt in a brief touchdown operation. For now, it has provided a picture of the detached explosive, taken with Hayabusa2's onboard camera.

JAXA hopes that this material will help unlock clues behind the creation of our solar system.

Over the next two weeks or so, the main Hayabusa2 spacecraft will slowly creep out of hiding and return to its "home position" about 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) above Ryugu's surface.

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