Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft detonates the bomb on the asteroid Ryugu to create a crater


JAXA has announced that its Hayabusa2 asteroid probe will attempt to fire a copper bomb on the surface of the Ryugu C-type asteroid. The explosion is expected to create a crater and enough remains for scientific study. ( Akihiro Ikeshita | JAXA )

The spacecraft Hayabusa2, of Japan's Space Exploration Agency (JAXA), detonated a bomb on the surface of the primitive Ryugu asteroid to create an artificial crater.

"The metal bullet hit the surface of the Ryugu asteroid and there was an explosion of materials," said Yuichi Tsuda, an associate professor at JAXA.

The JAXA Mission Control video broadcast the mission via YouTube. The agency will confirm whether the blast had created a crater at the end of April and the spacecraft should land on the asteroid in May.

The explosion

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 has been watching Ryugu since June 2018. On April 5, it deployed a small Carry-On Impactor device or SCI with explosives in the rocky terrain of the asteroid.

Hayabusa2 separated the SCI device 500 meters above the surface of Ryugu after descending from its initial position located more than 20 kilometers away. The impactor's head landed near the target area where it attempted to excavate a crater near the equator.

The mission used a copper projectile device that aims to make a hole measuring 10 meters wide in the asteroid. It was fired towards Ryugu at a speed of 4,500 miles per hour or 2 miles per second.

As the impact is likely to expose the asteroid's underground structure, scientists will be able to collect fresh samples and information on the strength of the Ryugu surface layer.

"We will try to find this artificial crater two weeks later, going down to a lower altitude and making extensive observations," added Tsuda.

Collecting Samples from Ryugu

Last February, Jaxa had already thrown a small bullet into the asteroid's surface for a brief touch. The mission was declared successful, but samples collected from the debris cloud were exposed to the solar system's climate.

Hayabusa2 will gather new samples and scientists will compare materials from below the asteroid surface with surface crumbs collected on the previous mission.

Untouched rock samples from the new SCI mission will also help scientists study the geological history of the asteroid.

Relic of the Past

According to JAXA, the Hayabusa2 probe aims to clarify the origin and evolution of the solar system as well as life. Since Hayabusa2 began its investigation of Ryugu, the spacecraft deployed three mobile robots that collected orbital photos of the former asteroid.

It is believed that Ryugu, a type C asteroid, is a primordial celestial body that contains more organic or hydrated minerals. Hayabusa2 will study samples recovered from Ryugu to analyze organic matter and water in the solar system and how they coexist as they affect each other.

Hayabusa2 will leave the asteroid by the end of 2019 and will return to Earth by mid 2020.

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