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article imageJapanese spacecraft successfully blasts crater in asteroid

By Karen Graham     Apr 5, 2019 in Science
Japan's space agency (JAXA) says its Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully dropped an explosive designed to make a crater on an asteroid and collect its underground samples to find possible clues to the origin 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 small explosive device called a Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) is a conical container weighing 14 kilograms (30.8 pounds). It was attached to the Hayabusa-2 and packed with plastic explosive. According to JAXA, the Hayabusa2 dropped the SCI with the explosion sending a copper ball the size of a baseball into the asteroid.
Hayabusa2's shadow seen on the surface of the Ryugu  asteroid it is studying
Hayabusa2's shadow seen on the surface of the Ryugu asteroid it is studying
Handout, JAXA/AFP
Immediately (within a few seconds) on dropping the SCI, Hayabusa-2 moved itself to hide away on the other side of the asteroid, shielding the spacecraft from any flying debris. Data coming back to Earth confirmed the spacecraft had safely evacuated and remained intact.
JAXA later confirmed the impact on the asteroid from images sent back by a small camera called DCAM3 that had been left behind at a safe distance from the asteroid. The images showed the impactor being released and fine particles later spraying dozens of meters (yards) out from a spot on the asteroid.
"The mission was a success,” JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda said, beaming. “It is highly likely to have made a crater.” Once the dust from the impact site has settled, Hayabusa-2 will be sent back to the site to collect samples from the new crater that has not been exposed to cosmic rays.
The new samples are expected to reveal important data explaining how the planets were formed in the early period of the solar system. "We expect the impact accuracy [of the SCI] to be something like a 200m radius, it's very large... we expect to have a hole somewhere in that very big region," Yuichi Tsuda said.
“So far, Hayabusa-2 has done everything as planned, and we are delighted,” mission leader Makoto Yoshikawa said earlier Friday. “But we still have more missions to achieve and it’s too early for us to celebrate.”
Hayabusa-2 is expected to leave asteroid Ryugu in late 2019, arriving back on Earth in late 2020, bringing along rock and dust samples, reports the BBC.
More about JAXA, Hayabusa2, asteroid Ryugu, Small Carryon Impactor, Ctype asteroid
 
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