Japan Space Probe Drops Explosive on Asteroid to Make Crater
Japan Space Probe Drops Explosive on Asteroid to Make Crater
A rendering of Hayabusa2 at the asteroid Ryugu. NASA
07 April, 2019, 10:45
The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa-2 on Friday dropped an explosive on a remote asteroid for the first time to form a crater with a view to collect samples of its surface and analyze their composition, which could provide clues to the origin of the Universe.
JAXA scientists will embark on research to collect information about the asteroid's interior, the conditions of which remain as they were at the time of the birth of the solar system.
For Hayabusa-2, Friday's attempt to blast a small crater in asteroid Ryugu was the riskiest part of its mission because it had to immediately move away so it wouldn't get hit by any flying shards from the blast, according to the Associated Press.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or Jaxa, said it had confirmed Hayabusa2 dropped a "small carry-on impactor" made of copper onto the asteroid on Friday morning.
"The spacecraft state is normal and it was confirmed that the evacuation operation, the separation of the SCI and DCAM3 went as planned".
Hayabusa 2 will wait a bit before it heads back to the impact site, but JAXA hopes it will find a crater several meters across.
Photos of Ryugu - which means "Dragon Palace" in Japanese and refers to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale - show the asteroid has a rough surface full of boulders.
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The SCI is a 2 kilogram (4.41 pound) copper lump which was sacked toward the asteroid at a speed of 2 km per second (4,473 mph).
To avoid being damaged by the force of the explosion, Hayabusa 2 was programmed to move to the other side of the asteroid after it releases the bomb.
NASA's Deep Impact project succeeded in creating an artificial crater on a comet in 2005, but only for observation purposes.
The SCI was one of several deployable modules carried to Ryugu by Hayabusa 2, along with the three landers it released a year ago to explore the asteroid's surface.
That probe returned with dust samples from a smaller, potato-shaped asteroid in 2010, despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey and was hailed as a scientific triumph.
At about the size of a large fridge, Hayabusa2 is equipped with solar panels and is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa - Japanese for falcon. "'But we still have more missions to achieve and it's too early for us to celebrate with 'banzai". The craft is scheduled to leave the asteroid at the end of 2019 and bring the surface fragments and underground samples back to Earth in late 2020.
The probe is loaded with four surface landers, an array of cameras and even an explosive device that will dig out subsurface rock samples.
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