Japanese space probe drops 'impactor' on asteroid Ryugu

Mindy Sparks
April 5, 2019

Hayabusa2 successfully released as scheduled the so-called "small carry-on impactor" - a cone-shaped device capped with a copper bottom - as the probe hovered just 500 metres (1,650 feet) above the asteroid Ryugu.

JAXA is analysing data to examine if or how the impactor made a crater.

After releasing a camera to capture images of the projectile impact, the probe was confirmed to have temporarily moved behind the asteroid to escape the debris caused by the detonation and the projectile's impact.

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.

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). Any underground samples that were dislodged during the crater's creation will be stored onboard Hayabusa 2 until it reaches its landing site in South Australia in 2020 after a journey of more than 3bn miles.

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.

The camera should be able to transmit those images, but it is unclear when the first confirmation of the mission's success will come.

Nasa's Deep Impact project succeeded in creating an artificial crater on a comet in 2005, but only for observation purposes.

Japan's space agency said its Hayabusa2 spacecraft released an explosive onto an asteroid to make a crater on its surface. The 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.

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

"It is a challenging mission, but we have made thorough preparations for it", said Takashi Kubota, a professor at JAXA's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, at a press conference in the morning, adding, "I leave the rest to fate".

"So far, Hayabusa2 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 with 'banzai'".

In February, Hayabusa2 touched down briefly on Ryugu and fired a bullet into the surface to puff up dust for collection, before blasting back to its holding position.

The probe then moved out of the blast zone, ducking behind the other side of the same asteroid - Ryugu, or 'Dragon Palace, ' located nearly 300 million kilometers from Earth.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

Discuss This Article