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

05 April, 2019, 19:54 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • This image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shows the asteroid Ryugu Friday

Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 project manager, told reporters that the Japanese space agency (JAXA) was able to confirm the impactor hit the surface of the asteroid based on an image captured by the camera released by the probe.

About three weeks after smacking Ryugu with what's basically a copper cannon ball, Hayabusa2 will begin a search for the artificial crater from a higher vantage point and plan for a touchdown at its custom landing spot as early as May. The aim of the SCI phase is to analyze the asteroid's underlying structure, collect some samples, and learn about the solar system's past.

It was created to come out of a cone-shaped piece of equipment. In a similar mission in 2005, NASA blasted the surface of a comet but never recovered the fragments. Scientists hope the samples will be crucial to determining the history of the asteroid and our planet.

This Sept. 23, 2018 image captured by Rover-1B shows the surface of the asteroid Ryugu is (drumroll, please) ... rocky.

As for what's next, the space agency says that the spacecraft moved to the other side of the asteroid after the explosion.

Images from a different camera at the bottom of the probe showed the impactor was released at the right position and angle.

'So far, Hayabusa2 has done everything as planned, and we are delighted, ' said mission leader Makoto Yoshikawa.


The mission's Twitter account confirmed the spacecraft did not encounter any problems during the evacuation, adding in its most recent update that the mission was "steadily progressing".

Ryugu the asteroid, named after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is located some 180 million miles from Earth.

Hayabusa2 successfully touched down on a small level area on the boulder-strewn asteroid in February, when it also collected some surface dust and small debris.

Members of The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, seen on screen, celebrate, as Hayabusa2 spacecraft safely evacuated and remained intact after the blast, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, Friday, April 5, 2019.

Jaxa's Hayabusa Two probe is on a mission to study the ancient asteroid Ryugu in a bid to help scientists better understand the origins of the universe.

Launched in December 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan, Hayabusa2 reached Ryugu last June after traveling 340 million km.

The asteroid is thought to contain relatively large amounts of organic matter and water from some 4.6 billion years ago when the solar system was born.

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