April 21, 2019

Japan space drops explosive on asteroid to make crater

09 April 2019, 12:07 | Edward Lowe

Hayabusa2 is going to blow a hole in the side of its asteroid Ryugu tonight

Hayabusa2 is going to blow a hole in the side of its asteroid Ryugu tonight

Japan's space agency said it successfully dropped a small bomb on an asteroid on Friday as part of its mission to better understand the history of the solar system.

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).

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

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

In this computer graphics image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is seen above on the asteroid Ryugu.

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Japan's space agency announced its Hayabusa2 spacecraft had released an explosive on an asteroid to make a crater on its surface and collect underground samples to find possible clues to the origin of the solar system.

JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda said the camera that separated from the probe captured the explosion and the photo showed material blown up from the Ryugu surface, indicating the mass had hit its mark.

The Japanese space agency just blasted an asteroid with an explosive copper bomb in hopes of learning more about the solar system. Friday's 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.

Earlier today, Hayabusa2 descended to 500 meters above the asteroid and released the SCI. "The SCI separation and evacuation sequence were a success", mission team members wrote on Twitter around 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT and 3 p.m. Japan time) today (April 5).

As for Hayabusa-2, it's expected to make its return to Earth sometime between November and December, with landing set for late-2020. It was meant to carve out a 10 metre-wide hole in the asteroid after it was sacked toward Ryugu's surface at up to 2 kilometres per second (4,500 miles per hour).

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The goal of the explosion was to create an artificial crater on Ryugu.

Jaxa confirmed Hayabusa2 left safely and remained intact after the blast. If they can identify a suitable site, they will then land Hayabusa2 in or near the crater to collect samples.

Because the impact of the copper mass could send up floating debris from Ryugu that could smack into the space probe, Hayabusa 2 will ascend to an altitude of about 20 km over a two-week period.

And in February, Hayabusa2 itself spiraled down to Ryugu, snagging a sample of rock and dirt in a brief touchdown operation.

Hayabusa2 observes the surface of the asteroid with its camera and sensing equipment but has also dispatched two tiny MINERVA-II rover robots as well as the French-German robot MASCOT to help surface observation.

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